Radiculopathy; Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Radiculopathy is a medical condition that occurs when a nerve in the spine gets pinched or irritated. There are several nerves or ‘nerve roots’ that emerge from the intervertebral joints and spread out into different parts of the body, thus controlling their movement as well as sensation. Radiculopathy may affect the cervical, thoracic or lower spine. However, it is most commonly observed in the lumbar portion. The cervical spine controls the neck and the arms, the abdomen and chest are controlled by the thoracic spine while the legs, hips and feet are affected by the lumbar spine. The location of the pinched nerve determines which part of the body will have the symptoms.


  • Activities that lead to overuse or excessive stressing of the spine
  • Injury during contact sports
  • Genetic traits may predispose family members to develop Radiculopathy
  • Doing excessive labor work or lifting heavy weights
  • Disc Herniation may pressurize the nerve as it emerges out of the joint spaces within the spine
  • Osteophytes or bone spurs may put pressure on the spinal nerves
  • Thickening of the ligaments supporting the spine
  • Osteoarthritis of the spine
  • Bone tumor
  • Spinal infection
  • Abnormal curvature of the spine developed due to Scoliosis
  • External trauma


  • Pain which is generally localized depending on the nerve that is pinched. It may occur in the lower back or the neck and may radiate down into the arms, legs, thighs and buttocks
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in the legs and arms
  • The affected part of the spine may feel tender when touched
  • The muscles controlled by the nerve tend to get weak and may also result in Paralysis


  • The medical and family history of the patient may be taken into consideration
  • A detailed physical examination and analysis of the symptoms reported. The orthopedic doctor may test the range of motion, muscle strength and abnormalities in reflexes, if any
  • X-ray imaging may be done to identify tumors, changes in spine structure, osteophytes etc.
  • MRI or CT scan may be conducted to analyze the location of the affected nerve and condition of soft tissue structures, discs or ligaments
  • An EMG test may be recommended to identify nerve damage


  • The patient may be advised to take rest and avoid any activity that causes stress to the back or neck
  • A physical therapy program may be initiated to educate the patient about good postural habits, techniques to perform physical tasks without stressing the spine and exercises to strengthen the supporting structures
  • Lumbar traction may be recommended in some cases to alleviate the nerve compression and create more intervertebral space
  • Injecting steroids directly into the affected part of the spine may help to relieve pain
  • Anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed by the doctor
  • Laminectomy- Surgical removal of the bone that compresses the nerve
  • Discectomy- Surgical removal of the Herniated Disc that may be pressing upon the nerve root

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