What is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy refers to the specific situation when the spinal nerve root is compressed, and this compression leads to painful symptoms. Spondylosis and herniated discs can cause this compression, but the compression can also be due to trauma. Depending on the location of the nerve root, you might experience pain or numbness in either the upper part of the spine (cervical) or the lower part of the spine (lumbar). Knowing the symptoms and identifying where they are radiating out from can help determine where the underlying issue is.

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The main and most common symptom of radiculopathy is spinal pain. As mentioned, the location in which the pain is radiating from will determine which type of radiculopathy you might be suffering from. Pain that is centered on the neck, arms, and sometimes the shoulders is cervical radiculopathy, whereas pain that is centered in the leg, buttocks, and lower back is called lumbosacral radiculopathy.

Tingling and numbness are also common symptoms and are often paired with weakness. If you notice any of these sensory changes or if you notice you are struggling to grip things or maintain your balance, it is best to reach out to a medical professional to see if you are suffering from radiculopathy.

You’ll find that radiculopathy symptoms, similar to sciatic nerve pain, will typically only affect one side of the body. Additionally, the pain can increase if you cough, sneeze, walk, or sit, as these are movements that affect the neck and/or lower back. If you find you have any of these symptoms or that your symptoms don’t abate on their own within a few weeks, it is recommended to talk to your doctor.

Causes and Risk Factors

Herniated discs and changes in the spine caused by degenerative diseases are the most common causes of the specific type of compression that might occur in a spinal nerve root. Fractures, infections, tumors, and cysts in the afflicted area can also result in this compression.

The older you are, the likelier you are to suffer from radiculopathy. Additionally, if you have a profession that requires you to lift lots of things, or if you have poor posture, excess weight, or familial history of arthritis, you may find that your risks are higher. Lastly, those who participate in contact sports such as soccer, football, and basketball may also suffer from radiculopathy in the future due to the potential injuries they may experience while playing their sport.

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Radiculopathy is a common spinal nerve pain that can be treated. Treatment usually consists of over the counter medications, physical therapy, chiropractic, rest, and in more severe cases, sometimes surgery is required. Regardless of the severity, there are options and our orthopedic specialists can help!


Radiculopathy is a situation where a nerve is pinched due to a compression in the spinal cord, and it can occur in the upper or lower parts of the spine. It is important to seek treatment for radiculopathy so as not to worsen symptoms.

Our surgeons have decades of experience treating spine and radiculopathy pain. Don’t continue to suffer - contact us today!

Additional Resources

Radiculopathy- Mayo Clinic

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