Radiculopathy is a very common infliction that millions of people suffer from each day. Radicular pain commonly is associated with the compression or inflammation of one or multiple spinal nerves, usually located in the lower extremes of the spine. When the pain moves through the body, travelling down the back of the leg, flaring at the knees, shins, ankle, or foot, it is commonly referred to as sciatic. This type of pain most times is described as being intense, deep, and steady. Flare ups of sciatic can be brought on by certain activities like bending, twisting, or lifting, or sitting in certain positions or standing for long periods of time. In people with severe Lumbar Radiculopathy issues, simple tasks such as rolling over in bed, climbing stairs, bending to tie shoes, and many other mundane tasks can cause a flare up and the accompanying pain.
Area of Pain Distribution
Radicular pain is generally focused on the lower extremity and follows the course of the specific nerve that is being pinched or aggravated- most commonly these nerves travel down through the high, calf, and foot. The most common symptom of radicular pain is sciatica, which “is one of the most common forms of pain caused by compression of a spinal nerve in the low back. It most often will be caused by compression of the lower spinal nerve roots (L5 and S1)” (Spine Health). Many people who suffer from Lumbar Radiculopathy say that the accompanying pain in the leg and foot is often much worse and more disruptive than the root pain in the spine.
Diagnosis of Lumbar Radiculopathy
Lumbar Radiculopathy has long been studied as it is a common spinal issue, especially for those who work in a career field that puts them at risk for this disorder; it is caused by compression, inflammation, or injury to one of the nerve bundles found in the lower spine. Causes of sciatica pain include:
Herniated disc that compresses the nerves- this is the most common diagnosis
Foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the nerve passage ways and is common among elderly patients.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage that causes them to be overly sensitive to abnormal conditions
Nerve root injuries can damage nerves for the entire pathway they run, thus causing the travelling pain associated with Lumbar Radiculopathy
Scar tissue can put pressure on nerves and reduce blood flow which can aggravate the nerves and cause them to flare up
The clinical diagnosis for Lumbar Radiculopathy is attained through a combination examination and a review of the patient's medical and life history. MRIs and CAT scans can also help doctors reach a diagnosis for Lumbar Radiculopathy and can help paint a picture of what is causing the pain and what can be done to correct it.
Treatment of Lumbar Radiculopathy
The most common course of action to treat sciatica related pain is to start with a non-surgical treatment approach- medications, physical therapy, and selective spinal injections. Dr. Hamilton has a deep compression table that is very useful for moderate to severe cases, but can also be used for a basic case. It usually takes 6-8 weeks to see lasting and definitive results from the conservative treatment options. If non-surgical treatment has not provided the desired results, decompression surgery, aimed at relieving the pressure on the nerves, can be an option- one that sees most patients gaining a great deal of relief. Dr. Hamilton has had great success in the past with helping people avoid the surgery route, and recommends the least invasive option, and thinks surgery should be the last option. Back surgery for the Lumbar Radiculopathy related pain can be more reliable than the procedures done for other back pain issues.
The decision of whether to go with surgery or not is based on the severity of leg pain and how debilitating it is. Back surgery is ill advised if there is no evidence of compression being the cause of the pain, as the surgery is unlikely to be successful at fixing any other problem. If you are suffering from Lumbar Radiculopathy, talk to your doctor or health care provider today and find out what treatment options are available to you.