Also known as nerve root compression, lumbar radiculopathy refers to a medical condition in which the lumbar spinal nerve root is compressed or irritated. This causes pain, tingling sensation, numbness or weakness in the nerves that travel down the low back and into the buttocks and legs. In layman terms, lumbar radiculopathy is also referred to as sciatica and may occur as a result of degenerative disc disease or disorder, arthritis of the lumbar spine, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis or through trauma or injury to the lumbar spine.
While lumbar radiculopathy can’t always be prevented, there are things that you can always do to reduce your risk of contracting it. But before jumping to the how’s, here’s some important information that may come handy in knowing the disease up-close and personal, its possible symptoms and the ways to fight it using few effective treatment options.
Lumbar radiculopathy symptoms:
When the nerve root is compressed, it becomes inflamed. Lumbar radiculopathy symptoms are typically made worse with long periods of walking or standing. As a result of it, you may feel a variety of uncomfortable symptoms like:
- Worsening pain with movement of neck or head
- Extreme pain in the arms or shoulders
- Sensation or reflex changes, hypersensitivity
- Numbness or weakness in the leg or foot
- Sharp pain starting in the back and extending to the buttocks, back of the thighs, knees and down to the foot
- Numbness, no sensation or tingling in the back
In extreme cases of lumbar radiculopathy, nerves affecting the bowel and bladder can become compressed, which may result in an extreme form of bowel and bladder inconsistence or complete loss of control.
Lumbar radiculopathy diagnosis:
If you are suffering from any of the lumbar radiculopathy symptoms listed above, your first instinct should be to seek medical attention from a primary care physician or a spine doctor immediately for pain relief.
As the first step towards knowing the exact cause of the pain, the doctor will thoroughly examine your medical history and ask you to undergo a physical examination to look for limitations of movement in the spine, problems related to balancing, as well as any loss of reflexes, muscles weakness, sensory loss or abnormal reflexes that may threaten the spinal cord in any form.
To rule out any underlying cause of the pain or potential risk and to evaluate your condition to the core, the doctor may ask you to do X-Ray and an MRI. In addition to these tests, doctors at times also suggest CT for a more detailed evaluation of the compression caused in the nerves and to determine which nerves are exactly responsible for the condition.
Lumbar radiculopathy treatment:
Once the diagnosis has been done and the cause of the pain is revealed, the next and the most important step obviously involves taking lumbar radiculopathy treatment. In most cases, the pain is transient and can be treated with the help of non-surgical lumbar radiculopathy treatments like:
- Medications: Pain killers, muscle relaxants, opioid medicines and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are given to the patient to help alleviate the pain and find long term relief from it.
- Physical therapy: Physiotherapy can help strengthen the muscles, improve balance and prevent any further damage to the nerves in the affected area. Its regular practice can also prove beneficial in stopping its reoccurrence, improve motion, restore joint function and help you return to a normal pain-free life gradually. At HACH, we have a team of highly qualified and experienced physiotherapists who are trained to offer customised & outcome-based treatment plans to those suffering from lumbar radiculopathy. Offering home-based physiotherapy treatments, these certified trainers can help you restore joint & muscle strength and regain mobility in the quickest timeframe possible.
- Weight loss: Excess of weight or obesity can significantly contribute to the problem and symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy. Losing weight on the other hand can have a significant impact on curbing the issues related to lumbar radiculopathy, reducing the pressure on the nerves and keeping you fit and active.
- Steroid injections: To reduce inflammation and relieve pain, these injections are often recommended by the doctors. However, it must be noted that these injections are not a long-term solution to the problem and for those suffering from an extreme case of lumbar radiculopathy, surgical interventions should eventually be sorted.
Surgical lumbar radiculopathy treatment:
In case the aforementioned conservative measures fail to provide any relief in alleviating or subsiding the pain, then the patient is advised to undergo a decompressive surgery, such as laminectomy or discectomy. In this the herniated disc or damaged portion of the spine is operated on to relieve the pressure on the affected nerves. These surgeries are known to provide relief to 85% to 90% of the patients who opt for them.
A quick look at the things you must know about lumbar radiculopathy:
- It is described as an ailment caused by the pinching of a nerve root in the spinal column
- The pinched nerve can occur anywhere along the spine (cervical, thoracic or lumbar)
- Lumbar radiculopathy symptoms can vary from case to case but most common among them are weakness, numbness, tingling sensation and pain in the nerves that run along the back, buttocks and down the legs