Radiculopathy

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Radiculopathy facts

  • Radiculopathy is caused by compression or irritation of a nerve as it exits the spinal column.
  • Symptoms of radiculopathy include pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.
  • Most patients with radiculopathy respond well to conservative treatment including medications, physical therapy, or chiropractic treatment.
  • Often radiculopathy can resolve within 6 weeks to 3 months.

What is radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a condition due to a compressed nerve in the spine that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the course of the nerve. Radiculopathy can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most common in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and in the neck (cervical radiculopathy). It is less commonly found in the middle portion of the spine (thoracic radiculopathy).

What are the risk factors for radiculopathy?

Risk factors for radiculopathy are activities that place an excessive or repetitive load on the spine. Patients involved in heavy labor or contact sports are more prone to develop radiculopathy than those with a more sedentary lifestyle. A family history of radiculopathy or other spine disorders also increases the risk of developing radiculopathy.

What are the causes of radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is caused by compression or irritation of the nerves as they exit the spine. This can be due to mechanical compression of the nerve by a disc herniation, a bone spur (osteophytes) from osteoarthritis, or from thickening of surrounding ligaments.

Other less common causes of mechanical compression of the nerves are from a tumor or infection. Either of these can reduce the amount of space in the spinal canal and compress the exiting nerve.

Scoliosis can cause the nerves on one side of the spine to become compressed by the abnormal curve of the spine.

Other causes of radiculopathy include diabetes which can decrease the normal blood flow to the spinal nerves. Inflammation from trauma or degeneration can lead to radiculopathy from direct irritation of the nerves.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/8/2013

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