Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lower back pain can range from an occasional minor annoyance to a debilitating pain that affects your mobility and quality of life. If your back pain has escalated into shooting pains down your leg or muscular weakness, you may have developed a condition known as lumbar radiculopathy. 

Despite its lengthy name, lumbar radiculopathy is a relatively common condition that is usually treatable by an experienced orthopedic spine specialist in New Jersey. Dr. Grigory Goldberg has helped hundreds of patients get the spinal treatment they need, so schedule an appointment and start your road to recovery today.  

What Is Lumbar Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy refers to the compression of a nerve in your spine that can cause shooting pain, muscle weakness, and other symptoms. Lumbar refers to your lower back, and lumbar radiculopathy is the condition that arises from a compression of a root nerve in your lower back. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, lumbar radiculopathy affects approximately 3% to 5% of the population. Most people develop the condition later in life, with men starting to notice symptoms in their 40s and women in their 50s. 

Causes of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Aging is a major contributing factor in lumbar radiculopathy, but it isn’t an exclusive risk factor. In general, people first notice lower back pain, and when they ignore this pain, it develops into a more severe version. 

Lumbar radiculopathy is the compression or irritation of a spinal nerve, which means that it can have dozens of root causes, such as:

  • Spinal bone spurs
  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Bulging disc
  • Degenerative conditions such as degenerative disc disease
  • Arthritis
  • Lumbar or lower back sprain
  • Spinal bone factors
  • Spinal ligament thickening
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Infections of the spine
  • Spinal deformity, either from a congenital disorder or an injury

Any activity that puts pressure on your lower spine increases your risk for lumbar radiculopathy. According to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, other risk factors in addition to age include:

  • Genetics: Patients whose families have a history of spine deformities, weaknesses or other structural spine concerns are more likely to develop lumbar radiculopathy.
  • Work: Physically demanding work, especially work that involves bending down and lifting objects can put additional wear and tear on your lumbar region and spine.
  • Sport: Extreme sports that put a lot of pressure on your back are a significant risk factor for lumbar injuries and subsequent radiculopathy.
  • Overall health: Obesity puts additional pressure on your joints and back, while muscle weakness in your spine can lead to a higher risk of bulging or herniated discs.

The Symptoms of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy can vary dramatically between patients depending on where the spine compresses the nerve roots. If you notice that you have chronic back pain alongside one of these symptoms, you may have, or be at risk of developing, lumbar radiculopathy:

  • Tingling or numbness down your legs
  • Shooting pain or the sensation of electrical shock from your buttocks to your feet
  • Muscle weakness in your legs
  • Reflex loss in your legs
  • Increased incidence of muscle spasms
  • Sharp pains in your leg that worsen with certain types of physical exercise

The symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy can flare up and then disappear for weeks or months. That doesn’t mean that the problem has resolved itself, and it’s still important to arrange a visit with an orthopedic surgeon to diagnose your concerns and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Lumbar Radiculopathy Treatment Options

Since the underlying causes of lumbar radiculopathy vary so much, every patient’s treatment plan is unique. Your orthopedic surgeon will conduct a thorough examination before making a diagnosis and will use their findings to develop a treatment intervention that seeks to reduce pain, restore full nerve function, and ideally, offer a permanent solution to restore your quality of life. 

Common treatment options for lumbar radiculopathy include:

  • Medication to reduce inflammation
  • Medication to reduce nerve pain
  • Lumbar epidural steroid injection
  • Physical therapy exercises
  • Weight loss strategies to reduce the stress on your lower back

Most cases of lumbar radiculopathy do not require surgery, but if your initial treatment plan doesn’t yield results, your surgeon may recommend one of several surgical options to remove the portion of a bulging disc or spur that puts pressure on the nerve. 

When to See a Spine Specialist

Lumbar Radiculopathy Doctor

Lower back pain is, unfortunately, a very common condition. According to a Georgetown University study, approximately 65 million Americans report a recent occurrence of back pain, and 16 million adults have chronic back pain. But not all of these occurrences lead to lumbar radiculopathy, which only affects 5% of the population. 

While it’s unlikely that your lower back pain will require surgery, our practice offers minimally invasive and endoscopic spine surgery.

Many people suffer from spine issues such as lower back pain or lumbar radiculopathy, and these common conditions can become debilitating if left untreated. If you suspect you may have the symptoms of a spinal condition, book an appointment with Dr. Grigory Goldberg today.

Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). Same-day appointments may be available.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is lumbar radiculopathy serious?

Lumbar radiculopathy is a serious condition because it is the result of a compressed nerve. If left untreated, your spine will continue to damage this nerve, which may lead to paralysis, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction. 

What is the best treatment for lumbar radiculopathy?

The best treatment for lumbar radiculopathy depends on the underlying cause of the condition. If you have a physically demanding job, your surgeon may recommend physiotherapy or rest, and medication to reduce inflammation and swelling. Each case is different and will require a tailored intervention plan.

What is the difference between lower back pain and lumbar radiculopathy?

The main difference between generalized lower back pain and lumbar radiculopathy is that lower back pain may have a wide range of causes, including pulled muscles, spinal deformities, and even simply sleeping incorrectly. Lumbar radiculopathy refers to a specific type of condition stemming from a compressed nerve. 

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