Radiculopathy - Causes

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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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: DT, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: May 05

I have had buttock pain and sciatica on and off for 10 years probably from years of running and coaching. I have been under the hospital for 3 years firstly undergoing physiotherapy treatment and then osteopath treatment. Thankfully at last the medics agree with me that my problem is not mechanical and is a bulging disc with nerve damage. I can't sit down or stand up for long periods. Pain killers don't touch my radiculopathy. I am trying to carry on as a self-employed physical education teacher but it is difficult. I am now waiting for an MRI scan before they decide what they should do for me. I am very frustrated at the long wait. No one seems to understand how painful this condition is.

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Comment from: Carol, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: March 03

Because I have osteophytes in spine, knee problems from screws loosening of tibial plateau fracture, and osteoarthritis, plus a pulmonary embolism problem, surgery is contraindicated for radiculopathy. I am trying to find out if I should be in a wheelchair or still trying to walk with canes. I can be upright if moving for 10 minutes maximum. Standing still is impossible. L4 has disappeared from posterior x-ray.

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