What is Radiculopathy?
Cervical or lumbar radiculopathy is not a specific condition but refers to chronic injuries of the spinal nerve roots caused by nerve compression, or irritation that has been left untreated. Radiculopathy is the term used to describe symptoms in any part of the body caused by nerves that are not working properly.
It is most common in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and in the neck (cervical radiculopathy).
Numbness, tingling, weakness, loss of motor function, and radiating pain are some of the more common symptoms of radiculopathy. Most patients will describe the pain as a sharp radiating pain that worsens with activity or change in positions. In fact, repetitive or stressful activities are common known causes of radiculopathy. If you have a job that involves repetitive motions or heavy lifting, you are particularly at risk for radiculopathy. Take breaks to stretch and move around and avoid being in the same position for extended periods. A genetic disposition and other spine disorders can also increase your risk of developing radiculopathy.
The Difference between Cervical and Lumbar Radiculopathy
If you feel your symptoms in your arms and hands, there is a good chance that your condition is cervical radiculopathy. Typically, cervical radiculopathy affects the inferior nerve root at the C5, C6 and C7 levels.
Lumbar radiculopathy, on the other hand, most commonly presents as lower back pain and muscle weakness. Pain down the back of the leg and into the foot and loss of the Achilles reflex are S1 lumbar radiculopathy specific symptoms.
For your best chance at a full recovery from either cervical or lumbar radiculopathy, early diagnosis and treatment are a must. The longer the nerve is damaged the higher the chance of complications.