What is radiculopathy? | Dr. Andrew Cash, MD Las Vegas, Nevada

by Brooke Strickland and Andrew Cash, MD

Radiculopathy is a condition that refers to symptoms experienced from the irritation of a nerve in the spine. This often causes pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness along the nerve in the spine.  This injury is also often called a pinched nerve.  It can happen in any part of the back, but is most common in the lower portion and the neck.

How do I know if I have radiculopathy?

For the affected nerve in the upper part of the back, you’ll likely experience a sharp pain that radiates down the arm.  This is caused by the nerve root irritation. If the affected nerve is in the lower spine, there could be localized back pain and pain that radiates into one leg.  And if you have pain in the middle of the back that travels to the chest, you may have a pinched nerve in the middle of your back.   Sometimes, the area may be sensitive to touch and in less common cases, weakness in the muscle can occur with can mean there is damage done to the nerve.

What causes it?

When a nerve becomes compressed, inflamed, or irritated, radiculopathy can occur.  This can be caused by herniated discs, scoliosis, bone spurs, thickened ligaments, osteoarthritis, or in some cases, infection or tumors.   In addition, diabetes can decrease the flow of blood to the nerves of the spine, which can also be cause for developing radiculopathy.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask a lot of questions regarding your symptoms including how long the pain has been present, where exactly you’re feeling the pain, and what types of movements make it feel better or worse.  A detailed exam is important to allow the doctor to diagnose exactly what nerve has been affected.  Once that takes place, a physical exam at the localized area of the spine will be performed to assess mobility, muscle strength, reflexes, and feeling.  If there is any abnormality or if your doctor needs more information, an MRI, x-ray, or CT scan may be needed.

How is it treated?

Relief for radiculopathy is possible.  Anti-inflammatory medicines can help greatly, as well as chiropractic treatment, and physical therapy, all while avoiding movements or activities that may strain the spine.  The results in feeling better may be a little slow in coming, however, so be patient.  It can often take six weeks or more to feel real relief, but keep steady on the treatment plan your doctor has ordered.  

If you’re experiencing these types of symptoms, contact Dr. Cash at Desert Institute of Spine Care for an appointment at: http://www.disclv.com

You can also view Dr. Cash's Verified Reviews® at www.medrounds.org/Dr_Andrew_Cash or his personal page at www.andrew-cash-md.com.