Radicular Pain

Radicular Pain

Occurring from many spinal conditions, radicular pain is a symptom of both acute and chronic pain that is caused by an inflamed nerve root.

What is Radicular Pain?

  • Radicular pain is a type of acute and chronic pain that is caused by compression, impingement, or inflammation of a spinal nerve root. Also referred as radiculopathy, radicular pain "shoots" or radiates to the extremities along the course of the affected nerve root(s).
  • Patients with radicular pain often feel sharp pain, numbness, or weakness in their extremities. Other symptoms depend on the area of the compressed nerve root(s), however, patients commonly experience sciatica, which is pain that shoots from the lumbar sciatic nerve down the back of the thighs.
  • Radicular pain that is severe and does not go away after 3 months is chronic, and should not be referred to as a warning sign for disease. Once it becomes chronic, it is a disease, and should be treated so decompression occurs.
  • Treatment depends on whether the radicular pain is acute (comes and goes quickly, relatively mild), or chronic. If needed, there are procedures available to decompress the nerve roots.

What are the symptoms of it?

  • Mild or severe pain that is acute or chronic
  • Pain that is felt in the extremities that may be sharp, radiating, electrical, aching, throbbing, or numbing
  • Feeling numbness, tingling, or weakness in the extremities along the nerve root
  • Loss of reflexes in the extremities
  • Feeling discomfort, tightness, stiffness, or soreness in the affected extremities
  • Sciatica that shoots down the nerve path into the thighs, calves, feet, or toes
  • Fatigue or sleeplessness from discomfort
  • Inability to perform everyday activities and withdrawal from social activity
  • Mood and behavior changes like anxiety, irritability, and/or depression
  • Disability

What causes it?

Radiculopathy is caused by compression, impingement, or inflammation of a spinal nerve root. There are various spinal conditions that may cause nerve compression. Most common conditions are herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, foraminal stenosis, and complications from degenerative disc disease or arthritis of the spine.

How do you treat it?

Patients are usually advised to treat radicular pain conservatively, especially if the pain is acute and mild. Common conservative methods of treatment focus on treating the pain and relaxing the body so that the nerve compression may heal.

Some conservative methods of treatment may include: rest, relaxation, massages, hot and cold compresses, physical therapy, and pain and/or anti-inflammatory medications. If severe, steroidal medication may also be recommended. If nerve damage is suspected or diagnosed, or if conservative methods of treatment have failed, then surgery is recommended.

Procedures to treat radicular pain involve decompressing the affected nerve root(s). Discectomy or microdiscectomy may treat a herniated or bulging disc. Laminotomy may treat spinal stenosis, and foraminotomy may treat foraminal stenosis. If you would like more information, and you feel you may be a candidate for a spine procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.