FAQs on Radiculopathy Treatment in Nashville

Radiculopathy is a condition that results from injury or irritation to a nerve as it leaves the spinal canal. When a nerve is compressed, symptoms of tingling, pain, and numbness occur. Radiculopathy is often associated with herniated disc and spinal stenosis.

What causes radiculopathy?

There are two opening on either side of the vertebra bones of the spine. These openings allow nerves to exit from the spinal cord, where they branch off to their specific body areas. Any pressure of the nerve root can lead to symptoms of radiculopathy.

How does cervical radiculopathy differ from lumbar radiculopathy?

The cervical spine is the neck region, and symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain of the upper extremities, muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling. The lumbar spine is the lower back region, and symptoms of radiculopathy from this region affect the lower extremities.

How common is lumbar radiculopathy?

Lumbar radiculopathy occurs in 4% of the general population, affecting both men and women. However, men tend to develop radiculopathy more during the fourth decade, whereas women are affected during the fifth and sixth decades of life. The symptoms of radiculopathy often persist for longer than six months in 25% of patients.

How common is cervical radiculopathy?

Occurring at a rate of 8 cases per 10,000 people, cervical radiculopathy is less common than the lumbar form. Cervical radiculopathy often is the result of an acute injury in young patients or as a result of a disc herniation. In the older population, radiculopathy occurs due to foraminal narrowing of the spinal structures.

How does radiculopathy feel?

The pain of radiculopathy can be dull and achy or sharp and burning. Many patients report that the pain feels like an “electric” sensation.

Who is at risk for radiculopathy?

The risk factors of radiculopathy include:

  • Heavy, manual laborers
  • Cigarette smokers
  • People operate vibrating equipment
  • Truck drivers
  • People with certain medical conditions, such as spinal infections, giant cell arteritis, and synovial cysts

What is the treatment of radiculopathy?

There are several treatment options for radiculopathy, but the therapy depends on the cause of the symptoms. Options include:

  • Medications – To reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain at the site of nerve root compression, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used. In addition, analgesics will alleviate pain.
  • Physical therapy – To stabilize the spine and strengthen back muscles, the physical therapist teaches the patient certain exercises.
  • Epidural steroid injection (ESI) – With this procedure, the doctor injects the epidural space with a corticosteroid, and sometimes, an anesthetic is added. With a success rate reported at 90%, ESI is an effective alternative.
  • Facet joint injection (FJI) – Typically given in a series of three, which are spaced a couple of weeks apart, FJI involves the insertion of tiny needles into the facet joints. Under x-ray guidance, the needles are positioned and a long-acting anesthetic is instilled into the spaces. A recent clinical review found that FJIs are effective for both short- and long-term pain relief.

Resources

Abdi, S, Datta, S, Trescot, AM et al. (2007). Epidural steroids in the management of chronic spinal pain: a systematic review. Pain Physician, 10(1), 185-212.

Boswell MV, Colson JD, Sehgal N, Dunbar EE, & Epter R (2007). A systematic review of therapeutic facet joint interventions in chronic spinal pain. Pain Physician,10(1):229-53

Lee JW, Park KW, Chung SK, Yeom JS et al. (2009). Cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injection for the management of cervical radiculopathy: a comparative study of particulate versus non-particulate steroids. Skeletal Radiology, 38(11):1077-82.

Tarulli AW & Raynor EM (2007). Lumbosacral radiculopathy. Neurol Clin, 25(2):387-405.