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Radiculopathy in New Jersey

Radiculopathy is a condition that is caused by pinched nerves in the spine. With offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township, Performance Rehabilitation is a leading physical rehabilitation facility offering radiculopathy treatments to the residents of New Jersey.

What is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy occurs when there is a pinched nerve along the spine. This condition happens when bones, cartilage, tendons, or muscles surrounding the spine deteriorate or are damaged. One of the most prevalent causes of radiculopathy is a bulging or herniated disc. The resulting trauma forces these tissues to undergo changes in position that place additional pressure upon the nerve roots of the spinal cord.

When nerve roots undergo compression, they become inflamed. This inflammation causes weakness, numbness, and pain. Nerves are highly vascular and thus very painful when injured. They can lose mobility anywhere from the spinal nerve root as it exits the spine to more distal parts of the body like the hand and lower leg (sciatica). The process can normally be reversed with proper treatment intervention that includes spinal mobilization, nerve glides, postural retraining, and prescriptive exercises.

Types of Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy is classified according to the location of the compressed nerves.

  • Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar radiculopathy involves nerve root pressure in the lower back. It may result in sciatica. Incontinence or even severe paralysis may be the result in some cases.

  • Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy occurs when there is pressure upon the nerve root of the neck. It may cause neck tingling or painful burning in the neck, arms, and shoulders.

  • Thoracic Radiculopathy

Thoracic radiculopathy happens when nerves in the middle part of the spine become pinched, resulting in chest and torso pain. It is a fairly rare condition that mimics the symptoms of shingles.

What Causes Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy takes place when a nerve becomes compressed by the tissue surrounding it. The condition is sometimes the result of a herniated spinal disc that happens when the disc’s outer rim is weakened or damaged. The nucleus moves and places pressure on a neighboring spinal nerve.

Radiculopathy can also be caused by bone spurs. Bone spurs occur when an excess of bone forms on a disc whenever that disc weakens or is damaged. Bone spurs can cause spine stiffness and narrowing of the space where the nerves are housed, resulting in their compression.

Herniated disc pressure, muscles, tendons and surrounding tissue may cause inflammation that interferes with proper nerve function. The compression may happen spontaneously, or due to trauma or conditions affecting the spine, such as osteoarthritis, injury and obesity. Other factors include age, poor posture and repetitive motion stress.

Who is at Risk for Developing Radiculopathy?

The aging process can cause changes in your discs and vertebrae. As such, this condition normally affects those between the ages of 30 and 50. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, and diabetes can increase the chances of developing radiculopathy. It can also be the result of repetitive shoulder, hand, and wrist movements. The condition can be hereditary, and may also affect pregnant women.

What are the Symptoms of Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy symptoms vary from mild to severe. The location and type of pain is dependent upon where the pinched nerve root is located. Cervical radiculopathy normally impacts the lower arm more than the neck. Lumbar radiculopathy results in more discomfort and pain in the lower leg than in the back.

Radiculopathy Symptoms are:

  • Shooting back pain that reaches down to the foot
  • A sharp pain that is made worse by abdominal pressure from coughing or sitting
  • Skin numbness in the foot or leg
  • Weakness and tingling in the arm and leg
  • Weakness and tingling in the leg and back
  • Sensation changes
  • Pain worsening with head or neck movement
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Reflex loss

How is Radiculopathy Diagnosed?

A number of tests can diagnose the cause of radiculopathy. Once a physical exam is completed, x-rays may reveal narrowing of the discs or bone alignment. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan (MRI) can look at the soft tissue, nerve roots and spinal cord. The computed tomography (CT) scan can examine fine details of the bones or bone spurs.

The electromyogram (EMG) is able to measure muscle electrical impulses when they are immobile or when a contraction occurs to find evidence of trauma. The nerve conduction study (NCS) can diagnose the nerve function related to electrical impulses.

Physical therapists rely on clinical reasoning and evidence-based practice to accurately diagnose radiculopathy in the cervical spine. The following four criteria are considered predictive of the presence of cervical radiculopathy:  positive upper limb tension test A (ULTTa), involved-side cervical rotation range of motion less than 60 degrees, positive distraction test, and positive Spurling’s test A.

Home Care for Radiculopathy

Any activity that increases the pain should be restricted.

Physical therapy can help patients learn how to stretch, strengthen, stabilize, and protect the area affected. Postural instruction and ergonomic assessment may be needed to eliminate the provocative nature of poor positioning on spinal nerve roots.

What is the Prognosis for Radiculopathy?

Most radiculopathy cases will improve following a few days or weeks of rest and treatment. When the condition is the result of a herniated disc, it will normally improve without the need for surgery. It is important to note, however, that radiculopathy can reoccur, regardless of surgical treatment.

How can I Prevent Radiculopathy?

Although some radiculopathy cases are unavoidable, there are some things that can lower the odds of developing it. Maintaining a healthy weight and good posture lowers the chances of developing radiculopathy. Safe techniques should be used to prevent complication when heavy objects must be lifted. Take frequent breaks when performing repetitive tasks.

Remaining physically active may also help prevent radiculopathy. You should take part in a regular physical exercise involving strength and flexibility training.

Pinched nerves, known clinically as radiculopathy, cause a variety of symptoms that affect your mobility and quality of life. If you believe that you have radiculopathy, contact us to schedule a thorough evaluation by one of our physical therapists at Performance Rehabilitation, with offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey.