Radiculopathy, more commonly known as a “pinched nerve,” is a condition in which the nerve roots of the spinal column become damaged or disturbed. Because the nerve root at a given level of the spinal cord receives sensory input from a variety of locations in the body, a compression at just a single level can cause a patient to experience widespread pain or other symptoms. For example, a patient with a pinched nerve in the lumbar spine may feel pain shooting down the leg and may even experience numbness or tingling in the toes. 

Symptoms

Radiculopathy can occur anywhere in the spine, but most commonly occurs in the cervical spine and lumbar spine. Radiculopathy that occurs in the lumbar spine is also known as sciatica. The symptoms of radiculopathy may include:

  • Pain in the shoulder or shoulder blade
  • Pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arm or fingers
  • A sharp pain that travels from the lower back down the leg
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg, foot, or toes

Causes

Radiculopathy is typically caused by disc degeneration or a herniated disc, which can result from injury. For more on causes of radiculopathy, see herniated disc.

Treatments

Nerve compressions become more common as people age, and not everyone experiences symptoms. Radiculopathy can often be treated with modest measures such as pain medication, activity modification, and wearing a collar or brace. If your pain is chronic and severe, your physician may recommend surgery. Your surgeon will discuss the most appropriate course of treatment for you, but common surgical procedures for treating radiculopathy include: