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What are the Differences Between Cervical, Thoracic, and Lumbar Radiculopathy?

As the primary conduit for your nervous system, your spine has nerve roots that branch out along its entire length. When you pinch one of these nerve roots, you can experience a wide range of symptoms, which are divided into different radiculopathies that are distinguished by their location.

At Texas Spine Consultants, Dr. Michael Ware Hennessy and our team specialize in the many conditions that can affect your spine, from degenerative disc disease to scoliosis. When it comes to conditions that compromise your nerve roots, we first look to your symptoms to determine which type of radiculopathy we’re dealing with, so that we can prescribe the right treatment.

To help you better understand the many faces of radiculopathy, here’s a look at how its location can affect your body.

Spine anatomy 101

Before we dive into radiculopathy, it’s helpful to first quickly review the structure that makes up your spine. At the heart of this foundational structure are 33 vertebrae that run from the base of your head down to your pelvis. These vertebrae are divided by 23 discs, which provide crucial cushioning, support, and movement.

Your spine is divided into five areas:

Because the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar areas contain vertebrae that move independently, it’s in these areas where radiculopathy occurs.

Behind radiculopathy

At its core, radiculopathy refers to the symptoms that develop when a nerve is pinched. As the primary conduit for your nervous system, your spine contains nerves that branch out along its length, which are called nerve roots.

Nerve roots are highly sensitive, which is made abundantly clear when they’re irritated or pinched. Most pinched nerves stem from the following:

While radiculopathy refers to the symptoms that accompany a pinched nerve — typically pain, numbness, and/or tingling — we break the problem down further by adding its location, which has an effect on where you feel the symptoms. 

Here’s how the three different radiculopathies break out:

Cervical radiculopathy

If the pinched nerve is located in your neck, you may experience local symptoms or symptoms that radiate outward to your shoulders, arms, and hands. 

Thoracic radiculopathy

The vertebrae in your mid back move far less than the ones in your neck or lower back, which means pinched nerves in this area aren’t all that common. That said, the problem can develop, which typically leads to symptoms that affect the immediate area, but they can also come around to the front of your body.

Lumbar radiculopathy

If your pinched nerve is located in your lower back, you may feel symptoms down into your buttocks and lower extremities.

The bottom line is that no matter where your radiculopathy is located, we can help you find relief. Simply contact our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to get started.

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