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What is Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy occurs when nerve roots, also called “radicular nerves,” are damaged for any reason. Nerve roots are the segment of a nerve that exits the central nervous system, allowing the rest of the nerve to travel to different regions of the body. A fairly common condition, radiculopathy may affect any region of the spine, but the most commonly affected area is the cervical, or neck, region.
What are the symptoms of Radiculopathy ?
Radiculopathy produces symptoms that vary according to the location of your irritated or compressed nerve tissue. Radiculopathy pain may be progressive, meaning it worsens with time. Common symptoms include:
Common symptoms of Facet Joint Disease include:
- In the lumbar spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet. If impingement affects one of the roots of your sciatic nerve, you can develop sciatica, which is characterized by localized or radiating pain, numbness, or other uncomfortable sensations in the lower body
- In the cervical spine: pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and weakness in the neck, arms, hands, and sometimes in the head
- In the thoracic spine (less common): pain, tingling, or numbness in the upper or mid back, radiating through the stomach or chest, which patients often confuse for cardiovascular problems
Prior to having a surgical procedure to treat your radiculopathy, conservative measures such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and steroid injections should be attempted. If these measures do not meaningfully relieve your pain, a North American Spine procedure may be in order.
What are the causes of Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy has several typical immediate causes, as well as a range of underlying causes. These include:
Additional common Radiculopathy causes include:
- A herniated disc in your spinal column is the most likely cause of radiculopathy. When a disc herniates, it leaks material from its inner core into the surrounding area of your spine, where it may press upon a nerve root.
- Stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spaces in your spinal column that provides passage for your spinal cord, spinal nerve roots, and spinal nerves. This narrowing can cause radiculopathy when nerve tissues do not have enough room to pass smoothly through the surrounding bony structures. The most likely place for spinal stenosis to occur is the foramina – the small holes that let nerves pass out of the spinal column.
- Age-related wear and tear, which can lead to Degenerative Disc Disease
- Back or neck strain due to repetitive physical activity, poor posture, imbalances in the musculature, or heavy lifting
- Direct physical injuries such as a car accident or fall
- Genetics, whether or not the symptoms appeared in your parents
What is the treatment like for Radiculopathy?
Treatment and procedure options for Radiculopathy range from conservative options like injections to more intensive procedures like spinal fusions.
Conservative Options Conservative treatment options include nerve root blocks and steroid injections. These are designed to provide temporary relief (up to one year), and you may elect to have the procedure done multiple times. Other conservative strategies may include the placement of a spinal cord stimulator–or STIM–which is designed not to correct the underlying degeneration, but to lessen the pain the condition causes.
Decompression Decompression may be used for cases in which the structural integrity of the vertebrae or spinal cord is not threatened. These procedures concentrate on freeing entrapped nerves, typically be enlarging the space through which nerves pass. Depending on the demands of the procedure and your unique physiology, a special surgical laser may be used.
Fusion/Stablization Fusion, also called stabilization, procedures may be used when the stability of the spine or vertebrae are compromised or threatened. In some of these cases, more than one harmful condition may exist. While these procedures are minimally invasive and enjoy a high success rate, some patients may be required to stay overnight for observation.
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