If you experience a sharp pain in your limbs or back that worsens when doing an activity, see a doctor for proper evaluation. You may be experiencing a symptom of radiculopathy, which refers to a group of symptoms that result from a pinched spinal nerve.

At Nacogdoches Medical Partners, we’re here to help you learn more about your health and treatment options. Count on our expertise and technology to treat spinal conditions, spinal cord injuries, back pain and more. We have a dedicated neurological critical-care unit, long-term rehabilitation and outpatient follow-up care to help provide compassionate care for communities in Nacogdoches, TX.

What Is Radiculopathy?

The human spine is made of many bones called vertebrae. At the vertebrae’s center is a canal where the spinal cord runs through. Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and pass through the small spaces between the vertebrate to travel into various areas of the body. The resulting symptoms are called radiculopathy when a nerve root is pinched or compressed. These are the types of radiculopathies depending on their location in the spine:

  • Cervical radiculopathy – happens when there is a pinched nerve in the neck, resulting in muscle weakness and numbness that radiates down the arm and into the hand.
  • Lumbar radiculopathy – occurs in the spine’s lower region and is associated with sciatica pain.
  • Thoracic radiculopathy – affects the upper back region and results in pain, numbness and tingling extending to the front of the body.

What Causes Radiculopathy?

Compression in the nerve roots causes radiculopathy. The following may cause this condition:

  • Bone spurs – small, abnormal bone growth that can cause pain if it rubs on a nerve.
  • Herniated disc – the spinal discs lie between the backbones to act as spacers and shock absorbers in-between the spine. As the disc ages, it can dry out, crack and bulge, placing pressure on the nerve root or spinal cord.
  • Osteoarthritis – a degenerative joint disease that can lead to spinal disc degeneration and bone overgrowth or enlargement, resulting in the narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the nerve roots.
  • Spondylolisthesis – poor spinal alignment due to a vertebra slipping forward on another vertebra. This condition can put pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord.

What Are Radiculopathy Symptoms?

A compressed nerve root becomes inflamed and results in uncomfortable symptoms such as:

  • Sharp pain in the back, legs, arms or shoulders that may worsen when doing certain activities
  • Weakness or loss of reflexes in the limbs
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Loss of sensation or numbness of the skin
  • A feeling of “pins and needles” in the limbs

How Is Radiculopathy Diagnosed?

See a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you experience any of the symptoms above. You will be asked to pinpoint where you feel pain and whether it radiates anywhere. Describe your symptoms to the doctor and when the symptoms started.

Your doctor may perform a physical exam to check your posture, numbness, muscle reflexes and muscle strength. Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests to help diagnose if you have any bone-related conditions. These tests may include the following:

  • X-rays – to show spinal bone alignment and see if there’s any spinal canal narrowing.
  • Spine magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scan – to identify herniated discs or bone spurs.
  • Electromyogram – to determine the exact nerve root that is affected.

What Are Radiculopathy Treatments?

Your doctor will discuss your radiculopathy treatment options if you are diagnosed with radiculopathy. Nonsurgical treatments may be recommended first to manage your symptoms, such as:

  • Medications such as muscle relaxants and pain relievers to manage the symptoms.
  • Numbing injections for relieving radiating pain due to nerve compression.
  • Physical therapy to help stabilize the spine by building endurance and strengthening back and abdominal muscles.

What Is Radiculopathy Surgery?

Surgery may be recommended if nonsurgical options do not improve your symptoms. However, not all patients will qualify for surgery, as doctors will have to review the patient’s overall health and the risks and possible benefits of the surgery to the patient.

Surgical options aim to remove areas of the spine that cause pressure to relieve pressure. However, if nerves were already severely damaged before surgery, the patient may still experience a bit of numbness, pain or no improvement at all. Also, the bone’s degenerative process may continue. Radiculopathy surgery treatment options may include:

  • Discectomy – removal of part of a herniated spinal disc.
  • Laminectomy – aims to remove pressure on the nerves and open the spinal column by removing bone spurs and the bone walls of the vertebrae.
  • Spinal fusion – a procedure to join two or more spinal vertebrae that have slipped from a normal position. The surgeon may remove the disc between the target vertebrae and secure the bones using metal devices or bone grafts.
  • Foraminotomy – aims to widen the opening in the spine where nerve roots leave the spinal canal.
  • Disc replacement surgery – replacing the problematic spinal disc with an artificial disc.

We’ve Got Your Back

You don’t have to bear the burden of pain alone. Our providers are here to listen to you and provide compassionate care. Whether you’re suffering from neck pain, an injury or any other orthopedic condition affecting your spine, Nacogdoches Medical Partners is here to help. We provide spine care services from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation. Early treatment may help relieve your symptoms and prevent your condition from worsening. Call 888-421-9679 or click the button below to schedule an appointment.