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A nerve root is a nerve that leaves the spinal cord to branch out to other parts of the body. When a nerve root is damaged, pinched, or irritated, radiculopathy develops. Radiculopathy is often caused by degenerative conditions that result from wear and tear on the spine, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis.
Radiculopathy can occur in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions of the spine, which has an effect on where symptoms occur. The condition is more common in the neck (cervical) and lower back (lumbar). Cervical radiculopathy may lead to weakness or loss of feeling in the shoulder, arm, hand, or fingers, while lumbar radiculopathy can lead to sciatica, which affects your legs.
Radiculopathy is caused by a compressed nerve. Due to the length and complexity of the spine, nerve roots are extremely susceptible to injury or damage. If anything – bone, tendon, muscle, or disc – compresses a nerve root, it can disrupt its function and cause neurological symptoms and pain. Causes of this disruption can be the result of conditions like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, among others.
Non-surgical treatment options for radiculopathy may include medication or steroid injections. If symptoms aren’t relieved with conservative treatments, surgery may be recommended to reduce the pressure on the nerve root. Surgical options can include a discectomy, a foraminotomy, a laminectomy, or spinal cord stimulation.