If you burn your finger on the stove, the source of the pain is obvious, but this isn’t always the case with spine-related discomfort. In fact, spine pain is often notoriously tricky in that you could have symptoms suggesting one problem that turns out to be something entirely different. Spinal neuropathy and radiculopathy are two such conditions: they have different sources but can produce similar symptoms.
Spinal Neuropathy and Radiculopathy Defined
Spinal neuropathy and radiculopathy are both caused by some type of nerve damage or irritation. Underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, can also be a contributing factor to either one of these nerve-based conditions. With neuropathy, symptoms stem from a part of the peripheral nerve that’s further away from the nerve’s root. With spinal radiculopathy, the nerve is affected closer to its root. Spinal neuropathy and radiculopathy produce symptoms that may include:
• Pain felt locally (within the affected area)
• Shooting pain
• Numbness and/or tingling sensations
• Muscle weakness
• Reduced range of motion
Because spinal neuropathy and radiculopathy produce symptoms along different parts of nerves, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis so appropriate treatment(s) can be recommended. This process usually involves your doctor or Los Angeles spine surgeon asking questions about your symptoms, reviewing your medical history, and performing a thorough physical exam. You may also be asked to make certain movements to determine what triggers your symptoms and how they’re experienced.
To positively identify which part of a nerve adjacent to your spine may be affected, image tests are typically performed. Some of these may include:
• MRI or CT scans
• X-rays to rule out other possible symptom sources
• A CT scan or X-ray performed with a contrast dye (myelogram)
• An ultrasound scan
Treatment for either spinal neuropathy or radiculopathy will depend on what’s causing it and the symptoms you’re experiencing. For instance, if diabetes is affecting spinal nerves, you’ll likely be advised to take steps to manage your blood sugar levels better to reduce the risk of making the damage worse. However, this source of nerve irritation isn’t correctable with surgery, although certain medications may improve your comfort.
If neuropathy or radiculopathy is caused by some type of nerve compression, you could benefit from treatments that either minimize symptoms or directly take pressure off an affected nerve. Specific treatments for nerve compression may involve:
• Massage therapy and other hands-on treatment methods
• Physical therapy that includes a customized exercise plan
• Over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory or pain medications
• Alternative treatment that may include chiropractic adjustments or acupuncture
• Surgery to provide more room for the affected nerve or relieve the source of compression if conservative treatments fail to provide sufficient relief
When it comes to treatment for spinal neuropathy or radiculopathy, which may include a surgical procedure such as a lumbar foraminotomy, Los Angeles patients should have realistic expectations. If something in or around your spine has been irritating a nerve for a long time, there may be permanent nerve damage that can’t be reversed. No matter what your situation is, you’ll be more likely to respond well to symptom management or treatment efforts if you see a doctor or spine specialist as soon as you notice discomfort that’s not going away.
If you’re having severe or long-lasting back pain, you should see your spine specialist for an accurate diagnosis and a personalized treatment plan. The spinal health experts at The Spine Institute have years of experience with all aspects of back health. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757.