Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is a medical term used to describe the neurological deficits that can occur from pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, such as arm or finger weakness, numbness, or pain. It can occur in any part of the spine, but usually it occurs in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and in the neck (cervical radiculopathy). It is less common to occur in the middle portion of the spine (thoracic radiculopathy). Generally, it can be resolved within 6 weeks to 3 months.

Risks

Some risk factors include performing activities that place an excessive or repetitive load on the spine. Individuals involved in heavy labor or contact sports are more prone to develop the condition.

Causes

  • Compression or irritation of nerves as they leave the spine – mechanical compression of the nerve by a disc herniation, a bone spur (osteophytes) from osteoarthritis, or from thickening of surrounding ligaments.
  • Tumor or infection – reduces the amount of space in the spinal canal and compresses the exiting nerve.
  • Scoliosis – causes the nerves on one side of the spine to become compressed by the abnormal curve of the spine.
  • Inflammation from trauma or degeneration – direct irritation of nerves.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on which nerves are affected. The most common symptoms are pain, numbness, and tingling in the arms or legs. It is also common for patients to experience localized neck or back pain.

Some patients experience a hypersensitivity to light or weakness in the muscles controlled by the affected nerves. This may indicate nerve damage.

© Spine Center and Orthopedic Rehabilitation of Englewood, PC

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