Radiculitis literally means the inflammation of a nerve root. It is a medical term used by health care professionals to refer to the symptoms when a nerve is inflamed or irritated. Radiculitis could be caused by disc herniation, bone spurs, or other spinal conditions.
What are the signs and symptoms of radiculitis?
The main symptom of radiculitis is radicular pain, a type of pain that radiates into the extremities. That’s why sometimes people use the term radiculitis and the term radicular pain interchangeably. For a patient with radiculitis, the radicular pain is often accompanied with numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the areas affected by the inflamed nerve root.
Depending on the location of the inflamed nerve root, the symptoms of radiculitis might be different. For example, if a nerve root in the neck is inflamed or irritated, the symptoms (neck radiculitis) could include local neck pain, radicular pain that radiates into the arms and hands, numbness in the arms and hands, muscle weakness in the arms, and shoulder or chest pain. But if a nerve root in the lower back is inflamed or irritated, the symptoms (lumber radiculitis) may include local pain in the back, radicular pain that extends to the legs or even feet, numbness in the legs and feet, muscle weakness in the legs, or even burning pain in the hips.
Why is early treatment for radiculitis so important?
The symptoms of radiculitis generally start mild. If diagnosed and treated early, symptoms of radiculitis can be managed and further problems associated with a damaged nerve can be prevented. Moreover, if diagnosed early, many conservative treatments can be used to effectively manage the symptoms. These conservative treatments include anti-inflammation medications, physical therapy, exercise, as well as heat and cold therapies.
But if left untreated, the symptoms could get worse and the nerve root could be seriously damaged. And in severe cases, radiculitis could cause permanent spinal nerve damage. If permanent spinal nerve damage happens, conservative treatments alone can no longer effectively manage the symptoms, and surgery is often needed. That’s why early treatment for radiculitis is so important, to start early treatment, to have more treatment options, and to avoid permanent spinal nerve damage.
So if you have signs and symptoms of radiculitis, talk to your doctor and find out if you are indeed affected by it. Or you can use our freeNeck and Back Pain Evaluation Tool (a popular online pain evaluation tool developed and administered by Atlantic Spinal Care) to start your diagnosis process. Remember, if diagnosed early, radiculitis can be properly treated and permanent spinal nerve damage can be avoided.