Radiculopathy is characterized by pain which seems to radiate from the spine to extend outward to cause symptoms away from the source of the spinal nerve root irritation. It 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 disk herniation, a bone spur (osteophytes) from osteoarthritis or from thickening of surrounding ligaments. At Coastal Back and Pain Institute in NJ, our radiculopathy dr is specially qualified to diagnose and treat radiculopathy.
Other less common causes of mechanical compression of the nerves is from a tumor or infection, which can reduce the amount of space in the spinal canal and compress the exiting nerve. Scoliosis can also cause the nerves on one side of the spine to become compressed by the abnormal curve of the spine.
Radiculopathy can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most common in the lower back and in the neck. Patients involved in heavy labor or contact sports are more prone to develop radiculopathy. A family history of radiculopathy or other spine disorders also increases the risk of developing radiculopathy.
The most common symptoms of radiculopathy are pain, numbness and tingling in the arms or legs. It is common for patients to also have localized neck or back pain as well. Lumbar radiculopathy that causes pain that radiates down a lower extremity is commonly referred to as sciatica. Thoracic radiculopathy causes pain from the middle back that travels around to the chest. It is often mistaken for shingles.
Most radiculopathy symptoms can be relieved by anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment or avoiding activity that strains the neck or back. Symptoms often improve within six weeks to three months.
If conservative treatments do not sufficiently remove the painful symptoms, epidural steroid injections may be necessary. With the help of an X-ray machine, an Coastal Back and Pain Institute Specialist physician injects steroid medication between the bones of the spine adjacent to the involved nerves. This immediately reduces the inflammation and irritation of the nerve, thereby eliminating pain. This is done as an in-office same-day procedure. Patients can resume normal duties immediately.
If all the measures above do not relieve the symptoms or pain is 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 disk that has herniated out and is compressing a nerve.