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Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar radiculopathy is the clinical term for the spinal nerve root in the lower back being irritated or compressed. This causes back pain, but the discomfort can also radiate to the buttocks and legs because the lumbar spinal nerve root sends signals to the muscles in those areas.

Conditions that may cause nerve irritation resulting in lumbar radiculopathy include:

  • Lumbar herniated disc
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis
  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease
  • Osteophyte formation
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Foraminal stenosis

Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms may come on suddenly or develop over time, and the type of pain or discomfort varies from a slight tingling feeling to severe pain.

Common symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy are:

  • Pain that may be dull, sharp, piercing, or burning in the back, buttocks, legs, and/or feet
  • Tingling in the back, buttocks, legs, and/or feet
  • Numbness in the back, buttocks, legs, and/or feet
  • Weakness in the back, buttocks, legs, and/or feet
  • Loss of reflexes in the affected areas

Diagnosis and Treatment

The spine specialists at the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center will begin with a physical exam, feeling for any abnormalities or tenderness in the back and checking your reflexes and range of motion. An X-ray or MRI likely will be performed to confirm compression of the spinal nerve root.

We always begin with nonsurgical treatments to help alleviate lumbar radiculopathy symptoms. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Physical therapy and exercises designed to stabilize the spine and decompress the spinal nerve root
  • Medications (anti-inflammatories, steroid injections, nerve root injections) to reduce swelling and relieve pain
  • Ice and/or heat therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Massage

If nonsurgical treatments are unsuccessful, our spine specialists may recommend one of these surgical methods to decompress the spinal nerve root:

  • Lumbar laminectomy
  • Lumbar microdiscectomy
  • Laminotomy
  • Lumbar spinal fusion

Back pain, especially pain that radiates down the buttocks and legs, could signal nerve irritation in the lumbar spine. It's important to see a spine specialist if the pain lasts more than a few weeks to avoid further compression of the spinal nerve root.

At the Kelsey-Seybold Spine Center, we’ll diagnose the source of your back pain and create a nonsurgical treatment plan to help alleviate your pain before the condition progresses. Make an appointment today.

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