Radiculopathy: What is it? Spine, Causes, Risk Factors, Types and Treatment

It is a nerve pressed on the spine and can cause various uncomfortable symptoms, including pain, weakness, and numbness.

When the discs in the spine are damaged, they can affect nearby nerve roots. This leads to Radiculopathy.

What is the spine?

The spine is a stacked structure composed of 33 bones or vertebrae, which protect the spinal cord from injury or trauma.

The spine’s bones allow a person to remain to stand, bending and twisting, and are held in place by a network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The nerves extend from the spine to other body areas, such as the arms and legs.

The spine is curved in an S-shape, which is vital for the spine’s health. These curves are responsible for absorbing impacts, balance, and various movements.

Each region of the spine has a specific name and function. Which are:

  • Cervical column or neck.
  • Thoracic column.
  • Lower back.
  • Sacred.
  • The bone of the tail.

Each vertebra is cushioned from its neighbor by an intervertebral disc. This protects the vertebrae so they do not rub one on top of the other.


These intervertebral discs can be damaged and cause compression or irritation of a nearby nerve root when injuries occur. Depending on which nerve is compressed, a person may experience pain throughout the body.

Age of the affected

People may develop Radiculopathy due to an injury, or it may occur for no apparent reason. People between 30 and 50 years are more likely to experience Radiculopathy in the cervical and lumbar spine areas.

Causes and risk factors

Multiple factors can generate a Radiculopathy, including the technique of poor lifting, poor posture, and back injuries.

It can also occur by:

  • A herniated disk compresses the nerve root.
  • A degenerative disc disease.
  • Tumors in the spine.
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Fractures
  • An abnormal curve causes scoliosis in the spine.
  • Spondylolisthesis is presented by a vertebra that moves and rests on the vertebra below.
  • Cauda equine syndrome is a rare but severe condition when nerve root compression affects the pelvic organs and lower extremities.
  • Diabetes is caused by altered nervous blood flow.

Additional risk factors for developing Radiculopathy include:

  • Overweight.
  • Aging.
  • Bad posture.
  • Inadequate lifting techniques.
  • Family history of degenerative bone diseases.

Types of Radiculopathy

Cervical Radiculopathy:

It occurs when a nerve is compressed in the neck or upper back. Symptoms associated with Cervical Radiculopathy include:

  • Pain in somebody’s extremities such as shoulders, neck, arms, and back.
  • Weakness in the back

Thoracic Radiculopathy:

A person may experience chest and torso pain when compression or irritation of the nerve occurs in the middle region of the back.

It is a rare condition that can be misdiagnosed as herpes zoster, heart, abdominal, or gallbladder complications.

Symptoms associated with Thoracic Radiculopathy include:

  • Severe pain in the ribs, side, or abdomen.

Lumbar Radiculopathy:

A person may experience pain in the lower back, legs, and hip when nerve compression or irritation occurs in the lower back.

Lumbar Radiculopathy is also known as sciatica, and symptoms include pain and numbness in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs, or feet. In general, symptoms get worse with long periods of sitting or walking.

In some cases, nerves that affect the bowel and bladder can be compressed, leading to bowel or bladder incontinence or loss of control.


Typically, Radiculopathy is treatable without surgery. Depending on the severity and other health conditions, doctors may recommend certain medications, which include:

  • Non-steroidal medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen .
  • Oral corticosteroids or injectable steroids.
  • Narcotic drugs for pain.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Application of ice and heat.

In some cases, doctors may recommend surgery to treat the cause of nerve compression.