Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)

Radiculopathy at a glance

  • Radiculopathy is a feeling of radiating pain from a compressed or pinched nerve in the spine.
  • Cervical radiculopathy causes pain in the upper extremities and lumbar radiculopathy causes pain in the lower extremities.
  • Radiculopathy is caused by the spinal nerves becoming compressed or pinched by spinal discs or bone material, causing nerve damage.
  • Pain, tingling and numbness in and around the area of the pinched nerve are symptoms of radiculopathy.
  • Treatment options for radiculopathy include pain medications and physical therapy. Be sure to talk to your pharmacist before purchasing anti-inflammatories as these medications may be contraindicated as they may interact with other medications and medical conditions.

Causes of radiculopathy or pinched nerves

Radiculopathy is caused by the nerves becoming compressed or pinched between spinal discs. A pinched nerve can be caused by loose material from a ruptured disc becoming lodged in the space between spinal discs, or a herniated disc (a disc that has moved out of place).

Radiculopathy can also occur during the aging process as bones and discs degenerate over time or from conditions such as arthritis. Additionally, spine injuries can put pressure on spinal nerves.

Symptoms of pinched nerve

Radiculopathy can cause pain, tingling and numbness that extend from the damaged nerve root to the areas surrounding the injury. For example, cervical radiculopathy symptoms can occur in the upper extremities such as the neck, shoulders and even chest and hands.

Pain from a pinched or compressed nerve in older people is often caused by normal bone degeneration, whereas a ruptured disc or other spinal injury often is the cause of radiculopathy in young people.

Radiculopathy treatments

Treatment for a pinched nerve includes pain medication combined with physical therapy. The medications may include anti-inflammatory steroids, which can be injected into the spine or taken orally, or non-steroidal pain medication such as Aleve.

Physical therapy methods usually include mobilization, exercise and other techniques to alleviate back pain. If the pinched or compressed nerve causes a decrease in motor skills or other significant effects, then surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure.

If you are experiencing symptoms and pain associated with a pinched nerve, contact our spinal specialists to learn more about the treatment option that is best for you.