Radiculopathy or pinched nerve occurs when one of the nerve roots near cervical vertebra is damaged, disturbed or compressed. The compressed nerve may cause pain that travels to the shoulders and causes numbness or muscle weakness. This is a neurological condition that can occur in any part of the spine but particularly affects the lower back.
What causes Radiculopathy?
Radiculopathy is often caused by degenerative changes that take place in the spine as we age. Some of the most commonly seen causes that lead to Radiculopathy include:
A disk is said to be herniating when the jelly-like center is pushed outside the ring. If the disk of the spinal cord is injured or worn out, the nucleus may squeeze its way through it. Next, as the herniated disk bulges out, pressure is put on the sensitive nerve root further causing pain and weakness.
As the spinal disc ages, they lose their original height and begin to bulge. In this process, they lose their water content further becoming stiffer. The degenerative changes cause settling problem and there is a loss of disk height space.
Degenerative changes are normal as they occur after a specific age in everyone. Approximately half of all older people aged 60 or above have pinched nerves and worn out disks that do not cause pain. It is still a mystery why some people develop painful syndromes while other doesn’t.
Symptoms Associated with Radiculopathy
In a majority of cases, the symptoms of Radiculopathy depend on the nerves that are affected. The pain of Radiculopathy starts at the back of the neck and travels down to the arm. Patients often describe the pain as a burning sensation. However some of the most commonly observed symptoms include:
Some patients have also reported that pain goes away when they place their hands on their head. However, this offers a temporary relief from the pain by releasing pressure on the nerve root.
The neurologist starts diagnosing the disease by physical examination and by reading the medical history of the patient. He will examine the neck, arms, hands and shoulders of the patient to look for loss of sensations, muscle weakness and any reflex changes.
Some of the tests that you may be performed upon include:
X-ray help provides a clear picture of bone. It shows the alignment of bones along the neck and can also reveal whether there is a narrowing of foramen along with damaged discs.
The CT scan gives a more detailed result and helps the doctor determines whether bone spurs have been developed near the foramen.
EMG measures electrical impulse of the muscle during contraction and at rest. This test helps in detecting whether the nerves are functioning normally or not.
MRI helps create a better image of body’s soft tissues. It helps in showing whether damage to soft tissues has caused nerve compression or not. It also makes it clear to the doctor to determine whether nerve root is damaged or the spinal cord.
Treatment for Radiculopathy
While a large number of patients get better with the treatment, others may need to consult a good doctor to fight the pain. It is also commonly observed that the symptoms have improved significantly only to return after some time. Such patients need a proper evaluation of their problem before they undergo the treatment.
Can it be Prevented?
Till date no specific prevention for Radiculopathy has been discovered. However, people who maintain a reasonable weight, indulge in regular exercising sessions, have good muscle condition and avoid straining their neck and back have low chances of developing this neurological disorder.
A majority of patients correspond well to the treatment options available. So if you are suffering from this disorder, make sure you consult an experienced neurologist.
Suffering from radiculopathy, a patient may experience a myriad of unpleasant and painful sensations in the back or even in the legs or arms, numbness, or weakness. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, drug therapy to relieve pain can be prescribed. The tasks for medication are to restore body function, relieve inflammation, or to cope with abnormal enlargement of some body parts. Thus, in addition to drugs for pain management, a medication that decreases swelling, redness, or inflammation also can become a part of a treatment scheme.
If the condition is left untreated, there is a high risk for poor health outcomes, so timely consultation with a doctor is a top medical objective to alleviate all signs and eliminate the probability of paralysis and the loss of the ability to freely move. If the pain does not go away and become even more intensive even with the proper drug approach, you can also apply some home remedies, modify your activity, add stretching to your daily schedule, control your posture, apply heat in case you strive to cope with tension in the muscles or ice to deal with inflammation.
Any back, neck, or chest pain that is permanent and doesn’t go for a long time should be a reason to see your medical specialist. Based on your complaints and after a comprehensive examination that is carried out to help establish the exact cause of the discomfort, a doctor will decide if any extra checkup is necessary since the task for a doctor is not only to conduct a detailed examination but also apply and use modern diagnostic methods, taking into account the contraindications and individual characteristics of the patient:
Doctors say that the best prevention of any back disease is timely and accurate diagnosis and competent design of an individual treatment plan. To make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe adequate treatment, a neurologist must conduct a neurological examination at the initial visit and find out the nature, duration, and intensity of pain and detect any sensory issues or movement disorders to efficiently fight the condition and repair the function of a pinched nerve.
The condition usually requires non-surgical medical care. Thus, your doctor can offer you to fight the unpleasant sensations and promote the function with the help of specially created exercises. So, physical therapy is the most efficient way to alleviate symptoms and maintain a high level of performance. Probably, you won’t be able to cope with pain without pain relievers. Local anesthetics that are injected into the skin can also be prescribed. Reducing inflammation and pain intensity, as well as relieving muscle spasms, are the key goals of the curing strategy. However, depending on the cause, surgery can be the only method of treatment.
In an individual who suffers from radiculopathy, due to trauma, inflammation, or compression of the roots of the spinal nerves, the peripheral nervous system is affected. Such a disease is usually associated with excessive stress on the spine. Here are the main reasons for the development of the condition and occurrence of severe painful sensations:
Radiculopathy does not arise without any reason but develops against the background of back problems. Osteochondrosis is especially dangerous and can lead to terrible consequences. Herniated discs, developing and increasing in size, can also pinch nerve endings. If you ignore symptoms and signs of radiculopathy, it becomes chronic and permanent, so it will be harder to treat the condition and get rid of the pain. Attacks can disturb a person throughout life and be provoked by external factors: increased load on the back or even prolonged stress. Diseases against which the syndrome develops will also progress without smart management and curing, and over time, the patient can become disabled.