What is Radiculopathy?

Typically, radiculopathy is treatable without surgery. Depending on the severity of the radiculopathy and other health conditions, doctors may recommend certain medications, including: Treatments for radiculopathy may include pain medication and wearing a cervical collar.

The spine is a stacked structure made up of 33 bones or vertebrae, which protect the spinal cord from injury or trauma. The bones of the spine allow a person to stay upright, bend, and twist. They are held in place by a network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Nerves extend from the spine to other areas of the body, such as the arms and legs. The spine curves in an S-shape, which is vital for spinal health. These curves are responsible for shock absorption, balance, and a range of movements.

Each region of the spine has a specific name and function. They are the:

  • cervical spine or neck
  • thoracic spine or mid back
  • lumbar spine or lower back
  • sacrum, connecting the spine to the hips
  • coccyx or tail bone 

      Each vertebra is cushioned from its neighbor by an intervertebral disc. This protects the vertebrae from rubbing on top of each other. When injuries occur, these intervertebral discs can become damaged and cause compression or irritation of a nearby nerve root. Depending on which nerve is compressed, a person can experience pain in a variety of locations throughout the body. People can develop radiculopathy as the result of an injury, or it may occur for no apparent reason. Those individuals aged 30 to 50 years old are most likely to experience radiculopathy, in the cervical and lumbar spine areas.

      Radiculopathy can be caused by a variety of conditions or injuries, including:

      • a herniated disc, when a disc protrudes, compressing the nerve root
      • sciatica
      • degenerative disc disease
      • bone spurs
      • tumors of the spine
      • osteoarthritis or spinal arthritis
      • spinal stenosis, a painful condition when the spinal canal narrows
      • compression fractures
      • spondylolisthesis, when a vertebra moves and rests on the vertebra below
      • scoliosis caused by an abnormal curve in the spine
      • diabetes, caused by altered nerve blood flow
      • cauda equine syndrome, an uncommon but serious condition when nerve root compression affects the pelvic organs and lower extremities

      Additional risk factors for developing radiculopathy include:

      • aging
      • being overweight
      • poor posture
      • improper lifting techniques
      • repetitive motions
      • a family history of degenerative bone conditions

      What Causes Radiculopathy?


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