Introduction to Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy refers to any disease of the nerve root. Radiculitis indicates actual inflammation around the nerve root; the associated pain is sometimes called radicular pain. The following animated overview explains cervical radiculopathy:

Symptoms of a Radiculopathy

The most common symptom of lumbar radiculopathy is sciatica. The most common symptom of cervical radiculopathy is pain that radiates down into your arms from your neck.

This disease is often caused by direct pressure from a herniated disc or degenerative changes in the lumbar spine that cause irritation and inflammation of the nerve roots. Radiculopathy usually creates a pattern of pain and numbness that is felt in your arms or your legs in the area of skin supplied by the sensory fibers of the nerve root, and weakness in the muscles that are also supplied by the same nerve root. The number of roots that are involved can vary, from one to several, and it can also affect both sides of the body at the same time.

Treatment Options for Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy might be treated with a combination of corticosteroids (powerful anti-inflammatory drugs) or non-steroidal pain medicine (Motrin or Aleve). Steroids might be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally (into the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord).

Physical therapy might include gentle cervical traction and mobilization, exercise, and other treatments to reduce pain. If significant compression on the nerve exists to the extent that motor weakness results, surgery might be necessary to relieve the pressure.

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