Radiculopathy is often characterized by the irritation of the spinal nerve roots due to a herniated disc or conditions like spinal stenosis. However, the symptoms may appear in multiple areas of the spine. Radiculopathy is commonly associated with neck pain.
Some of the most common signs include weakness, numbness, and tingling in the affected area. Recognizing these common symptoms is crucial for a prompt diagnosis and treatment plan.
As with many other neck and back conditions, radiculopathy may be initially disregarded as common pain. Understanding the disease's root causes, related conditions, and best procedures to alleviate symptoms can help stop its progression effectively.
Radiculopathy can have multiple causes and often appears alongside other back and neck conditions. Some of these may include the following:
- Herniated disc: A herniated disc occurs when an intervertebral disc becomes damaged or displaced, leading to nerve irritation and lumbar pain.
- Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis occurs when there is increased pressure on the spinal nerves due to the narrowed spaces between the spine.
- Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra slips onto another, causing the bones to pinch the sciatic nerve.
- Tumors: When a tumor appears, the spinal nerves in the neck can suffer from compression, leading to radiculopathy.
- Infections: Spinal infections characterized by swelling can lead to nerve compression in the neck.
- Other factors: Physical trauma or metabolic conditions like diabetes could contribute to nerve compression in the neck.
Some of the most common signs of radiculopathy appear in the neck area and include the following:
- Radiating pain along the neck and spine
- Numbness and weakness in the affected area
- Tingling sensations
- Loss of reflexes due to nerve compression
- Limited mobility and stiffness
Once you discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider, they will perform the following steps to diagnose the reason for your back or neck pain:
- Your family’s medical history
- X-rays, MRIs, and CT Scans
- Measurement of the electrical activity of muscles and nerve cells (electromyography)
Radiculopathy treatments may range from conservative therapies to pain management procedures and minimally invasive interventions:
Conservative therapies use the patient’s own body to help regenerate mobility and alleviate pain. Doctors often suggest using these techniques along with other treatment plans:
- Massage therapy focuses on areas that are causing pain and discomfort, releasing pain and pressure from the lumbar area.
- Acupuncture uses needles to focus on pressure points, helping with the nerves that send pain signals into the brain.
- Chiropractic care uses manual techniques to align the spine.
You should discuss trying these conservative techniques with your doctor to know the ideal solution for your case.
Your lifestyle can have a serious impact on the health state of your spine. Some tips that could help release stress from the lumbar area include performing low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling, having a healthy diet to manage your weight, and keeping a good posture while also using ergonomic chairs.
Non-opioid medications offered by your health specialist can help reduce spinal swelling and nerve pressure. These may range from the following options:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Injections offer longer-lasting relief for patients dealing with radiculopathy, focusing on the nerves that send pain signals into the brain. Some of the options available for this condition include the following:
These are injected near the spinal nerve area, blocking the transmission of pain signals.
Facet Joint Injections
These target the joints located on the vertebra, which could be causing nerve compression. They are also applied using digital imaging and need minimal to no recovery time.
Pain management techniques can significantly improve quality of life since no pain will be felt during recovery. Doctors recommend using pain management options along with treatments that focus on restoring your spinal mobility:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) involves the usage of low-voltage electrical currents to disrupt the transmission of pain signals.
- Radiofrequency ablation uses radio waves heat to help reduce nerve irritation.
Spinal cord stimulation is a type of neuromodulation treatment that uses electrical impulses to modify the nerve activity in the spine. As the nerve signals become blocked by this stimulation, the pain won’t be felt even though the symptom source remains.
On the other hand, peripheral nerve stimulation uses electrical stimulation to target peripheral nerves around the spinal cord.
This revolutionary treatment branch offers patients the possibility of restoring their spinal health without undergoing complex surgical procedures. Minimally invasive interventions almost completely reduce the risk of complications and do not need extensive recovery time. Some of the options to treat radiculopathy include the following:
- Microdiscectomy removes a portion of the damaged disc that is causing pressure on the spinal nerves, relieving pressure and alleviating pain.
- Endoscopic discectomy involves making a small incision through which the endoscope is inserted. Once this is done, your doctor will remove a portion of the disc that’s responsible for nerve compression.