What is Lumbar Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy is a condition resulting from pressure or compression on a nerve in the spine. It is common in the neck, causing numbness, tingling, weakness and pain in an arm. It is also common in the low back causing numbness, tingling, weakness and pain in a leg. The symptoms follow the path of the nerve that is compressed. The path of the symptoms helps doctors determine what nerve is involved.
Risk Factors Associated with Radiculopathy
Common risk factors associated with the condition are that of a repetitive or excessive load on the spine. Patients who are involved in activities requiring heavy labor or contact sports tend to be more at risk for developing lumbar radiculopathy. Trauma and accidents are another major cause of radiculopathy. Family genetics and age may make a person more susceptible to conditions causing radiculopathy.
Common Causes Attributed to the Condition
Radiculopathy is frequently caused by a mechanical compression of your nerves from a bone spur, disk herniation, osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, spinal stenosis or a thickening around the ligaments. Tumors and infections tend to be some of the less common causes of the condition.
These mechanical changes reduce the amount of space within the canal and cause compression on the exiting nerve. Scoliosis, or an abnormal curve in the spine, predisposes individuals to the mechanical factors that often cause radiculopathy. Inflammation and trauma can cause the condition from a direct irritation on the nerves.
Symptoms Associated with Radiculopathy
The symptoms caused by radiculopathy depend on the nerve or nerves that are affected. Nerves exiting from the neck control the muscles of the arms and neck and carry the sensations of feeling, such as touch, hot, cold and pain. The nerves exiting from the middle part of the back control the abdomen and chest and supply them with sensation. The nerves from the lower back are in control of the muscles for the legs and buttocks and carry the sensations of feeling in the lower part of the body.
When these nerves are compressed, the person feels numbness, pain and tingling in the affected part of the body. Patients can have localized back and neck pain as well as pain only in an arm or leg.
Treatment of Radiculopathy
Patients with these symptoms should see their doctor immediately, especially if there is muscle weakness or loss of sensation. Treatment will vary, depending on the symptoms and the nerve or nerves involved. Frequently, precisely localized injections can often reduce the pressure and inflammation of the affected nerve and stop the pain, numbness and weakness resulting from the nerve compression.