Lumbar radiculopathy is the irritation of a spinal nerve caused by an injury or damage to the discs between your vertebrae of your lower back. The term radiculopathy refers to a pinched nerve. Essentially, this condition is a pinched nerve in the spine of your lower back caused by either compression or inflammation following changes in the structure of your spine after an injury or other damage to the area.
This condition is also referred to as sciatica, which is a common type of pain experienced when the sciatic nerve is affected. This large nerve extends from your lower back and down the back of each leg.
Sciatic pain is caused by the irritation of the nerve root of your lower back (lumbar spine). There are a number of conditions that involve your spine and can affect the nerves, including:
- Herniated Disc – Each vertebra of your spine are separated by a disc, which is a cushion of support. A disc has a soft, jelly-like center and is encased in a tougher exterior. When there is damage or injury to this area, the disc can rip or rupture, causing the soft center to protrude and compress the nerve root of your spine.
- Spinal Stenosis – This condition is caused by abnormal narrowing of the lower spinal canal. When this area narrows, pressure is placed on your spinal cord and sciatic nerve roots.
- Spondylolisthesis – An associated condition of degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis is a condition in which one of your vertebra extend forward over another. This extension of spinal bone can pinch your sciatic nerve.
- Spinal Bone Spurs – This condition is related to the overgrowth of bone on your vertebrae, which can compress or pinch the sciatic nerve.
Typically, sciatica only affects one side of your lower body. It is common for sciatic pain to extend from your lower back, through the back of your thigh, and then down through your leg. Pain varies related to the area of the sciatic nerve affected, therefore, some individuals may also experience pain extending to their feet or toes. Pain can also vary from a mild ache to a sharp and burning sensation, and to excruciating pain. Common symptoms of this condition include:
- Hip pain
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the buttocks or leg that may worsen when sitting
- Burning or tingling sensations down the leg
- A constant pain on one side of the buttocks
- Shooting pains that may make standing up difficult
- Difficulty moving the leg or foot, numbness, or weakness
There are many types of medications that can be prescribed to manage sciatic pain. A comprehensive review of your symptoms by your pain specialist is necessary to determine your pain medication regimen. Although medications are helpful, they are just one component of your pain management plan. The best pain relief results from a variety of specialists working together to target the source of your pain. Additional treatments include:
- Physical Therapy – When your acute pain is relieved, a physical therapist can design an individualized rehabilitation program to help you get back to your daily activities and prevent future injuries. Your plan may include exercises to correct posture and strengthen the muscles that support your back.
- Massage Therapy – A massage therapist can apply pressure, tension, vibration, or motion to your body to relieve any pressure or pain you are experiencing.
- Chiropractic Therapy – A licensed chiropractor can use spinal manipulation to help you achieve maximal spinal mobility. Chiropractors also aim to treat the body as a whole, not just the source of your pain.
- Epidural Steroid Injections – This is the injection of a corticosteroid medication directly into the area around your affected nerve root. Corticosteroids relieve pain as they suppress the inflammation around your affected nerve.
- Nerve Stimulation – There are two types of electrical nerve stimulation that are effective for treating chronic pain related to sciatica, peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS) and spinal cord stimulation (SCS). Both use a small pulse generator to send electrical pulses. PNS sends these pulses to the nerves and SCS sends them to the spinal cord. Both interfere with the nerve impulses that are responsible for pain perception, relieving sciatica.