Radiculitis and Radiculopathy

Symptoms

When a spinal nerve root is pinched near its exit location at the spine, radiculitis or radiculopathy symptoms occur. Pain radiates away from the spine and either down your arm, across your ribs or down your leg, depending on the location of the pinched nerve. Numbness, tingling, pins and needles, burning and weakness may also be experienced. Typically, radicular symptoms are in either your arm or leg.

Causes

Any obstruction can pinch the nerve root, such as a herniated disc, degenerated (flat) disc, thickening of bone or ligament, cysts and tumors. Often times, more than 1 structure affects the nerve root due to long-term wear and tear, and breaks down spinal structures.

Background

You have 31 pairs of spinal nerves, each of which could be pinched near the location where they exit the spine. Between your vertebrae, each side has a small opening for a nerve to pass through. Radiculitis is a term referring to the spinal nerve root (radicular) and describes inflammation (-itis). Radiculopathy implies pathology or that the radiculitis has progressed and the nerve is experiencing deficit as it dies from the compression.

Aligned Medical Group’s Approach

To treat radiculitis or radiculopathy, our primary goal is to alleviate pressure on the nerve root. We keep in mind that your nerve is both inflamed and has pressure on it when formulating your treatment plan. Re-assessment within 48 hours following your first treatment is important to determine the severity of nerve pressure. Overnight relief is a good sign that the nerve is mostly irritated, whereas more nerve pain following a gentle treatment suggests a higher level of direct mechanic pressure on the nerve. Relief is best accomplished with hands-on spinal mobilization. A gentle pull on a painful leg can greatly reduce nerve pain from radiculitis. We use flexion distraction chiropractic manipulation in order to gap or open the space between vertebrae where the nerve root is trapped. A pinched nerve often triggers substantial muscle tightness or muscle spasms, which in turn, cause more compression on the nerve.

Our initial goal is to decrease tightness so the nerve pain reduces and the nerve can heal. Ultimately, we target the pinched nerve to reduce inflammation and “uncompress” it. We evaluate the strength of the nerve and may refer for neurodiagnostic studies if the nerve is losing its function. Nerve deficit often manifests as diminished sensation in parts of your leg or weakness in specific leg muscles. If the pinched nerve is due to a disc herniation, Vax-D spinal decompression may be the best course of action.