Radiculopathy: What You Need to Know

Radiculopathy, commonly known as a pinched nerve, is a painful and uncomfortable condition that can occur anywhere along the spine. The three main areas that radiculopathy affects are your lower, middle, and upper spine area. In addition to pain, symptoms include:

When it affects your lower spine and back, the most common form of this condition, it’s called lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica. The second most common area affected by a pinched nerve root is your neck area, which is called cervical radiculopathy. 

The least common type of nerve pain is in your middle or upper back region, also called thoracic radiculopathy. 

At Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates, our experienced team can diagnose and put together a treatment plan for your type of radiculopathy. In the meantime, here’s what you should know about this condition.

What is radiculopathy?

Your spine is made up of bones, or vertebrae, that are stacked from your lower back to your neck to help you stand upright, bend, and twist. Your vertebrae also protect your spinal cord, which runs through the middle of it. 

Nerves extend from the spinal cord out through your vertebrae to your arms, legs, and other areas on your body. When these nerves get pinched or damaged, it can cause pain, weakness, and numbness in the area in which the nerve extends. This condition is called radiculopathy.

Common causes of radiculopathy

Radiculopathy occurs when the tissue surrounding the nerve, including tendons and discs, narrows or changes. Narrowing or pinching of the nerve can be the result of a variety of conditions, most commonly stenosis, herniated discs, and bone spurs. 

Other conditions that can lead to radiculopathy include tumors of the spine, spinal arthritis, and diabetes. You’re more at risk for radiculopathy if you:

How to treat radiculopathy

We can treat most radiculopathy without surgical intervention, but it depends on the location and severity of your symptoms. 

The recommended first course of treatment usually includes medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants to help reduce pain and inflammation, and physical therapy to help strengthen surrounding muscles. In some cases, we may prescribe a prescription pain reliever. 

If these noninvasive therapies don’t alleviate symptoms, the next step could be a minimally invasive steroid injection to reduce inflammation further. In some cases, we may recommend surgery to help reduce the pressure on the nerve root by widening the space where the nerve roots extend out from the spine.

If you’re feeling pain, weakness, or tingling anywhere in your back and neck, call us at our Castro Valley, California, office to find relief.

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