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Back Pain

What is Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain is pain that arises from an irritation of spinal nerves or roots. This results in symptoms that “radiate” from one site to another. Pain often originates at or near the vertebral column and travelsdown one or both extremities. It may transverse through the entire extremity or just part way down the extremity. Symptoms in the leg have commonly been termed “sciatica”. Radiculopathy is a condition where there is a true blockage of the spinal nerves causing compression or ischemia. This results incomplete loss of sensation and or muscle contraction. Radicular pain is differentiated from referred pain in that referred pain is pain perceived elsewhere in the body than the primary source. An example of referred pain is low back pain coming from the kidney or neck and arm pain from a heart attack.

What are the causes of Radicular Pain?

It is generally agreed upon that the cause of radicular pain is an irritation to the nerves that supply the leg and arms due to inflammation or compression. There are multiple conditions which irritate these nerves. Disc herniation and bulge is often thought of as a primary cause. As the disc gets compressed it can press against the nerve as it exits the spinal cord. Other conditions which can cause radicular pain include spinal and foraminal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, facet joint arthropathy, piriformis syndrome, meningeal disorders, and certain cases of diabetes.

Are there predisposing factors to have Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain can occur to anyone at anytime. However, those of us who have significant degenerative changes in the spine, motion abnormalities, poor posture, or are involved in repetitive or strenuous bending and twisting are significantly more likely to have radicular pain. Unfortunately, few of us are aware of degenerative changes within our disc and spine and even fewer are aware of segmental hypermobility or hypomobility within our spine.

What are the symptoms of Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain can take on multiple forms. Some individuals describe sharp shooting pains that travel down one or both arms or legs. Other individuals describe a burning sensation. Always these symptoms are well localized and follow a particular stripe-like pattern spanning less than two inches wide. These symptoms can often be aggravated in certain positions and alleviated in others, especially lying down. As the severity of this condition progresses, symptoms may include numbness, coldness, or an inability to appropriately use the affected limb/body part.It is important to note that pain need not be present to have this condition as studies support that compression of a nerve does not evoke pain but rather numbness, tingling, and/or weakness. The painresponse is suggested to be a bi-product of the specific condition that caused nerve irritation.


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