What is Radiculopathy?

What is Radicular Pain

Radiculopathy refers to a condition that affects nerve roots, resulting in pain, weakness and numbness. Radicular pain, sometimes referred to as sciatica, is characterized by pain radiating down the back of the leg and into the calf or foot. It’s often associated with inflammation or compression of spinal nerves, sometimes resulting in difficulty controlling specific muscles.

Causes of Radiculopathy

A radiculopathy (commonly referred to as a “pinched nerve”) occurs when there is actual nerve dysfunction, causing pain that affects a specific dermatome (an area of skin primarily supplied by a single spinal nerve) in the leg. The source of the pain is a usually a compression of spinal nerve roots in the lower back. The most common indication of radiculopathy is pain radiating down the back of the thigh and calf into the foot. The pain typically recurs when making specific movements or sitting in a certain position. Additional causes of radicular pain may include:

  • Nerve inflammation
  • Nerve root injuries
  • Lower back injuries (affecting spinal nerves)
  • Herniated disc (with nerve compression)
  • Diabetes (as a contributing factor)
  • Scar tissue (from previous spinal surgeries)

Treatment for Radiculopathy

Treatment for radicular pain usually starts with medications such as muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (including ibuprofen and naproxen) or prescription opioids for severe pain. In some cases, the affected area needs to be mobilized until the nerve heals, sometimes requiring a period of bed rest to facilitate the healing process. If the pain or persistent discomfort doesn’t go away with other treatments, back or neck surgery may be required to relieve the nerve pressure.

Radicular pain is often diagnosed through a physical exam along with an evaluation of a patient’s medical history. Once the condition is suspected, testing often includes an MRI or similar image test to identify the specific nerve root(s) affected by the radiculopathy.

Getting a Diagnosis

If you have been diagnosed with radicular pain, are in need of a second opinion or are wondering what your options are outside of medications and therapies, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today. Dr. Bae and his team of spinal specialists can help determine the cause of your pain and which treatment will be most appropriate. Along with traditional spinal surgeries such as spine decompression and spine fusion, Dr. Bae is on the cutting-edge of surgery and offers a wide variety of non-fusion surgical options. For more information or to schedule an in-person consultation, call (310) 828-7757.