The medical term radiculopathy
describes particular symptoms or related problems that have a common origin at the nerve roots near the spine. Although the word can refer to either lumbar radiculopathy or cervical radiculopathy, this article covers the former, which occurs in the back (cervical is related to the neck). A type of neuropathy, in this condition the nerves do not function as they otherwise would in normal circumstances.
The main symptom of lumbar radiculopathy is the back pain. Along with other common symptoms, this can be known as sciatica. Several other aspects involved in sciatica may include: difficulty controlling muscles, leg weakness, and tingling ("pins and needles") and numbness in the legs.
The nerve roots are the "root" cause of radiculopathy. When one becomes pinched, inflamed, compressed, or otherwise irritated, it can lead to the condition. Several possible causes of this nerve irritation include underlying conditions like: bone spurs, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease (DDD), and spinal stenosis. Additionally, any sort of nerve pinching that results in a lack of blood flow might lead to such a condition, as can diseases which damage the nerves.
Diagnosis of radiculopathy is generally done through a complete physical examination. Additionally, diagnostic items such as a CT scan and/or MRI may be used. Although radiculopathy itself is not considered to be a condition, but simply a description of the symptoms that occur, tests may show findings that could possibly be leading to irritation or other negative effects on the roots.
Various methods of treatment for radiculopathy are available, and which is advised may vary from one patient and case to the next. The underlying problem behind the radiculopathy symptoms may be taken into consideration. Some items that may be used include: physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, surgery, and medication (generally for pain relief). Preferably, the treatment should attempt to restore normal function to the nerve root, rather than simply giving relief for the back pain or other symptoms. Surgery is generally not the first option, although it may be undertaken if different treatments do not work, or if the patient has weakness as a symptom.
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