Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
Radiculopathy, also known as a pinched nerve, is a medical condition characterized by pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the distribution of a specific spinal nerve root. It occurs when a nerve root, which branches off from the spinal cord and travels to other parts of the body, becomes compressed or irritated.
The term “radiculopathy” comes from the Latin word “radix” meaning root, and the Greek word “pathos” meaning suffering or disease.
The compression or irritation of the nerve root can be caused by several factors, including herniated intervertebral discs, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), osteophytes (bone spurs), or degenerative changes in the spine.
Diagnosis of radiculopathy may involve physical examination, imaging studies (such as MRI or CT scan), nerve conduction studies, and electromyography (EMG).
Treatment options for radiculopathy can include physical therapy, medications (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or nerve pain medications), corticosteroid injections, and in some cases, surgery.
Causes of Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
Radiculopathy, also known as a pinched nerve, can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Herniated intervertebral disc: A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of a spinal disc ruptures and presses on a nerve root, causing compression and irritation.
Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which can place pressure on nerve roots.
Osteophytes: Osteophytes, also known as bone spurs, can form on vertebral bones and press on nerve roots.
Degenerative changes in the spine: Degenerative changes, such as degenerative disc disease and spinal arthritis, can cause the spinal bones and tissues to compress nerve roots.
Spinal tumors: Tumors located in the spinal canal or on spinal nerves can compress nerve roots and cause radiculopathy.
Spondylolisthesis: Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one vertebral bone slips forward over another vertebral bone, compressing the nerve root.
Trauma or injury: Trauma or injury to the spine can cause compression or irritation of nerve roots.
Congenital spinal abnormalities: Some individuals may have congenital (present at birth) spinal abnormalities that can cause nerve root compression and radiculopathy.
The technical terms used to describe these causes of radiculopathy include intervertebral disc herniation, spinal stenosis, osteophytosis, degenerative spinal changes, spinal tumors, spondylolisthesis, trauma, and congenital spinal abnormalities.
Signs and Symptoms of Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
- Radiculopathy, also known as a pinched nerve, can cause a range of signs and symptoms, including:
- Radicular pain: Radicular pain is a sharp, shooting pain along the distribution of a specific nerve root.
- Paresthesia: Paresthesia refers to a tingling or burning sensation in the affected area.
- Motor weakness: Motor weakness refers to a decrease in strength in the muscles supplied by the affected nerve root.
- Muscular atrophy: Muscular atrophy refers to a reduction in muscle size due to decreased use or nerve damage.
- Hyporeflexia: Hyporeflexia refers to a decreased reflex response in the affected area.
- Sensory deficits: Sensory deficits refer to a decrease in the ability to feel sensation in the affected area.
These technical terms are commonly used in the diagnosis and evaluation of radiculopathy by healthcare professionals such as physicians and physical therapists.
Treatment for Radiculopathy (Pinched Nerve)
Physiotherapy can be an effective treatment option for radiculopathy, helping to relieve symptoms and improve function.
A typical physiotherapy program for radiculopathy may include:
Soft tissue mobilization: This may involve the use of manual therapy techniques to help relieve pain and improve mobility in the affected area.
Stretching and strengthening exercises: These exercises can help to improve the strength and flexibility of the surrounding muscles and reduce the pressure on the affected nerve root.
Pain management: Physiotherapists may use techniques such as heat or cold therapy, electrotherapy, or pain-relieving exercises to help manage pain.
Postural education and advice: Physiotherapists can provide information on how to maintain good posture and prevent future injury.
Active rehabilitation: This may include specific exercises to help improve mobility and strength in the affected limb or limb.
It’s important to note that the specific physiotherapy treatment for radiculopathy will vary based on the individual and the severity of their condition. A physiotherapist can develop a personalized treatment plan based on a thorough assessment of the individual’s specific needs and symptoms.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about radiculopathy please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Sánchez-Sánchez, J., Sánchez-Martín, R., & Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, C. (2019). Short-term effects of manual therapy and exercise therapy in patients with lumbar radiculopathy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy