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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What is the treatment for radiculopathy?

Fortunately, most people can obtain good relief of their symptoms of radiculopathy with conservative treatment. This may include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy or chiropractic treatment, and avoiding activity that strains the neck or back. The majority of radiculopathy patients respond well to this conservative treatment, and symptoms often improve within 6 weeks to 3 months.

If patients do not improve with the treatments listed above they may benefit from an epidural steroid injection. With the help of an X-ray machine, a physician injects steroid medication between the bones of the spine adjacent to the involved nerves. This can help to rapidly reduce the inflammation and irritation of the nerve and help reduce the symptoms of radiculopathy.

In some cases the symptoms continue despite all of the above treatment options. If this occurs and the symptoms are severe, surgery may be an option. The goal of the surgery is to remove the compression from the affected nerve. Depending on the cause of the radiculopathy, this can be done by a laminectomy or a discectomy. A laminectomy removes a small portion of the bone covering the nerve to allow it to have additional space. A discectomy removes the portion of the disc that has herniated out and is compressing a nerve.

Can radiculopathy be prevented?

There is no specific prevention for radiculopathy. Maintaining a reasonable weight, good muscle conditioning, and avoiding excessive strain on the neck and back can reduce the chances of developing radiculopathy.

What is the outlook for radiculopathy?

The outlook for radiculopathy is good. The majority of patients respond well to conservative treatment options. Those patients that need surgical procedures typically obtain good results as well with no long-term restrictions.

  • 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.

Medically reviewed by Martin E. Zipser, MD; American Board of Surgery

REFERENCE:

"Malanga, Gerard A., et al. "Lumbosacral Radiculopathy." Medscape. 22 Aug. 2012.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/9/2015

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