It starts slowly and you begin to feel tingling, or nothing at all, in your hands. Or, you wake up one day and have trouble moving around because of shooting pain down one of your legs. These issues are collectively known as radiculopathy and the problem often starts in your spine.
As our name implies, Dr. Michael Ware Hennessy and our team here at Texas Spine Consultants focus on matters of the spine and the debilitating side effects that can stem from problems in this foundational structure.
In the following, we explore one such condition — radiculopathy.
Spine anatomy 101
In order to better understand how problems in your spine can cause symptoms in other areas, it’s helpful to review the anatomy of your spine.
At its core, your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that stretch from the base of your head to your pelvis. The structure is divided into five sections:
- Cervical spine, or neck
- Thoracic spine, or midback
- Lumbar spine, or lower back
Your spine serves many roles, including providing foundational support for your entire musculoskeletal system, as well as providing a passage for your nervous system. All along your spine, there are nerve roots that branch out to form your peripheral nervous system.
Radiculopathy and your spine
The symptoms associated with radiculopathy occur when nerve roots along your spine are pinched or irritated, which is why the more common term for radiculopathy is “pinched nerve.” These symptoms include:
When a nerve root is irritated, the effects can run along the length of the nerve, which is why you feel symptoms that are fairly far from your spine.
The causes of radiculopathy
There are many issues that lead to a pinched nerve, including:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Bone spurs
These issues can lead to three main types of radiculopathy:
- Thoracic (which is relatively rare)
Radiculopathy tends to occur in those areas of your spine that enjoy the most movement, such as your neck and lower back.
The good news is that there are many solutions for a pinched nerve in your neck or back. In less severe cases, the problem often remedies itself with time and rest, as well as anti-inflammatory medications. Also, physical therapy and steroid injections can also play roles in your treatment.
If, however, your symptoms are severe and the problem isn’t going to remedy itself, Dr. Hennessy may recommend surgery, including the innovative XLIF® lumbar interbody fusion. This approach is minimally invasive and works to relieve your discomfort and reduce your recovery time.
If you’re struggling with radiculopathy, please contact one of our two locations in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment so that we can get you on the road to relief.