Radiculopathy is a painful condition that can occur during a hard collision, which typically occurs in sports and auto accidents. In fact, you’re probably somewhat familiar with radiculopathy, because it’s really just the medical way to explain a pinched nerve in your spine. If you’ve ever been troubled by a pinched nerve in your back, you know it can be a pretty debilitating condition. Today, we take a look at the causes, types, symptoms and treatments of radiculopathy.
What Causes Radiculopathy?
A pinched nerve in your spine occurs when a nerve becomes compressed by surrounding tissues or other issues, like a herniated disc or bone spurs. Pressure from tissues or other body parts can cause inflammation in the area, which interferes with normal nerve function. As we mentioned above, this can occur during a traumatic event like a car accident, but it can also occur more slowly as we age. Poor posture, osteoarthritis and repetitive activity can all lead to radiculopathy.
There are three main areas where pinched nerves can occur in your spine. They are:
- Cervical radiculopathy – Pressure on the nerve root in the neck. Categorized by burning or tingling in the neck, shoulders or arms.
- Thoracic radiculopathy – This type of radiculpathy occurs when there are pinched nerves in your mid-spine. Pressure in this area causes pain in the chest and torso, and sometimes is incorrectly categorized as shingles.
- Lumbar radiculopathy – This occurs when a pinched nerve develops in the lower back. It can be accompanied by sciatica, or shooting pain in the legs.
Symptoms and Treatments of Radiculopathy
Although we mentioned some symptoms above, here’s a generalized list of what you can expect if you’re suffering from a pinched nerve in your back.
- Shooting or pulsing pain
- Pain that travels down your leg
- Loss of reflexes
- Pain that worsens with neck or back movement
If a doctor diagnoses you with a pinched nerve in your back, you’ll generally progress through four stages of care to achieve relief, although if symptoms alleviate during one of the initial stages, there’s no reason to continue with treatment. The four stages are:
- Medications – Your doctor will likely prescribe you some anti-inflammatory medications to help control inflammation in the area. If it’s inflammation that’s causing the pressure, rest and anti-inflammatory medications could resolve the issue.
- Chiropractic Care – Sometimes a skilled chiropractor can free the pinched nerved by manipulating your body.
- Physical Therapy – If the first two treatment methods fail, your doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy. You’ll work with a physical therapist to strengthen your back and help free the pinched nerve through stretching.
- Surgery – If conservative methods fail, surgery might be necessary. Surgery is typically recommended after 6-12 weeks of failed conservative treatment. Doctors will preform a surgery based on your specific cause, be it a discectomy, bone spur removal or spinal fusion.
For more information on radiculopathy, or to talk to a doctor about your back pain, contact us today.