Lumbar Radiculopathy Explained
Lumbar radiculopathy is a common condition that is characterized by back pain that radiates into other parts of the body. This article will help you understand what lumbar radiculopathy involves and how it can be treated.
Overview of lumbar radiculopathy
In the back, nerve roots stretch from the spinal cord to other parts of the body. Sometimes, these nerves can get pinched or otherwise irritated from poor posture or strenuous activity. In the lower back, the sciatic nerve runs from the lower region of the spinal cord down into the back of the thigh and is vulnerable to damage from other spinal conditions.
Lumbar radiculopathy (otherwise known as sciatica) is the painful condition that occurs when this sciatic nerve root gets pinched or damaged, leading to pain and weakness in the lower back and leg. A pinched nerve can have a variety of causes, but luckily, pain can be managed in most cases with prompt treatment.
Causes of lumbar radiculopathy
Sciatica emerges as the result of a pinched nerve in the lumbar spinal column, or the lower back. Common causes of sciatica include
- Herniated disc: When the hard exterior of the disc that cushions the vertebrae in the spine cracks or is damaged, the soft inner cartilage can bulge outward and irritate the sciatic nerve root.
- Degenerative disc disease: When discs in the spine begin to weaken or deteriorate over time, the bones of the spine can end up pinching the neighboring sciatic nerve root because they have lost their cushion.
- Bone spurs: When discs deteriorate or arthritis develops in the joints of the spine, bone spurs can develop and cause painful irritation of the sciatic nerve root, as well.
Overall, sciatica is more likely to develop when the spine experiences shifts in its normal positioning or deteriorates over time. These changes can irritate or pinch the neighboring nerves due to increased compression in the spine and lead to radiating pain in the lower body.
Symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy
Common symptoms of sciatica include
- Pain in the back that radiates downward into other part of the lower body, including the thighs, buttocks, knees, and feet
- Numbness in the lower body
- Tingling in the lower body
- Weakness or reduced motion in the lower body
Symptoms will vary depending on the location and severity of the nerve inflammation. In some cases, pain is chronic and enduring, while in others, pain mostly comes in occasional flare-ups.
Treatments for lumbar radiculopathy
In most cases, pain from sciatica can be managed with conservative treatments. These can include
- Anti-inflammatory pain relievers
- Improved posture to relieve pressure on the spine
- Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the back
- Steroid injections to relieve inflammation in the nerve
In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure and inflammation on a nerve root in the spine. This procedure can involve removing part of a disc or vertebra to minimize irritation of the nerve and is typically reserved for cases that cannot be improved with more conservative treatments.
An orthopaedic specialist will work with you to develop an individual course of treatment.
Treating lumbar radiculopathy at OAR
Lumbar radiculopathy, or sciatica, is a frustrating condition that can interfere with your ability to do normal activities. Our team of specialists and surgeons at OAR are dedicated to providing quality orthopaedic treatments that can help you find relief from sciatic nerve pain and inflammation.
Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.