Radiculopathy

Sarah Weir

What is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a condition due to a compressed nerve in the spine that can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the course of the nerve. It can occur in any part of the spine, but is most common in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and neck (cervical radiculopathy). Radiculopathy is essentially a pinched nerve caused by any number of things. It could be caused by a herniated disc, a bulging disc, or a slipped disc, among others.

Symptoms:

Cervical Radiculopathy pain travels down the arm in the area of the involved nerve. Pain is usually described as sharp. There can also be a "pins and needles" sensation or even complete numbness. In addition, there may be a feeling of weakness with certain activities.

Lumbar Radiculopathy pain radiates into the lower extremity (thigh, calf, and occasionally the foot) directly along the course of a specific spinal nerve root.

Tests to Diagnose:

1. The Spurling Test. In this test, the neck is passively hyper-extended and laterally flexed toward the symptomatic side.

2. The Neck Distraction Test. In this test, the patient is in supine position. If the pain is relieved with distraction force, indicating that pressure on the nerve roots have been relieved, it is positive for cervical radiculopathy.

Treatment:

Nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy, medications, and selective spinal injections should be conducted for six to eight weeks. If this treatment does not provide relief, then surgery is the next option. The decision to proceed with surgery is based on severity of leg pain and/or the presence of significant muscle weakness.

Key Terms Chart

*Radiculopathy
A pinched nerve in the cervical or lumbar region
*Cervical

Of or pertaining to the cervix or neck
*Lumbar
A lumbar, vertebra, artery, or the like
*Disc
A flat or circular plate
*Herniated Disc
An abnormal protrusion of a spinal disc between vertebrae, most often in the lumbar region of the spine, causing pain due to pressure on spinal nerves

Questions for Class:

1. What are three possible causes of Radiculopathy?

2. What are the two types of Radiculopathy?