Radiculopathy

  • Medical Author:
    Jason C. Eck, DO, MS

    Dr. Eck received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Catholic University of America in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. Following this he worked as a research engineer conducting spine biomechanics research. He then attended medical school at University of Health Sciences. He is board eligible in orthopaedic surgery.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Radiculopathy Symptoms

Symptoms of Radiculopathy includes pinched or compressed nerve

A "pinched nerve" is the name given to the uncomfortable sensation, pain, or numbness caused when increased pressure leads to irritation or damage to a peripheral nerve (A peripheral nerve is one that is outside the brain and spinal cord.). Although this condition is often associated with back pain or a neck injury, almost any nerve is susceptible.

Quick GuideBack Pain Pictures Slideshow: Myths and Facts About Back Pain

Back Pain Pictures Slideshow: Myths and Facts About Back Pain

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 2/9/2015
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