Radiculopathy (sciatica / pinched nerve)

What Is Radiculopathy or Pinched Nerve?

True pinched nerve, or radiculopathy, is a condition that occurs when a spinal nerve is inflamed due to compression by a spinal pathology, such as a herniated disc.  This condition is often accompanied by low back or neck pain of a lesser degree. Often there is a specific traumatic event or motion associated with the onset of pinched nerve. Standing, sitting, heavy lifting, sneezing, or having a bowel movement may aggravate the pain. Lying down is usually the most comfortable position. Occasionally paresthesias (sensory disturbance), weakness and diminished bowel or bladder function will accompany, but these are rare symptoms

What is Sciatica?

The term “sciatica” indicates that there is compression of the sciatic nerve, which travels from the lower back through the buttocks and into the back of the leg. This is only one form of radiculopathy, but perhaps the most commonly recognized. The most common symptom of sciatica is posterior thigh, lower leg or foot pain that can be much worse than the accompanying lower back pain. Usually a patient will experience moderate to severe pain, which begins in the buttocks and runs down through the leg or foot

How Is Radiculopathy Diagnosed?

A thorough history and physical examination is an important part of the diagnosis of pinched nerve. Nerve root tension tests can be used to confirm the presence of pinched nerve by attempting to reproduce the discomfort with certain motions and body positions. Imaging studies will often confirm nerve root compression. Additionally, electrodiagnostic studies may be useful in determining radiculopathy by identifying damage to the spinal nerves.

How Is Radiculopathy Treated?

Non-surgical therapies such as anti-inflammatory or steroid  medication, pain management injections, rest and or physical therapy are typically recommended first. However, if these therapies fail to provide lasting relief over the reasonable length of time, or if there is evidence that nerve root compression is causing nerve damage, surgery may be indicated. The goal of surgery is alleviate your symptoms and prevent further damage by removing the source of pressure on the spinal nerve roots.