Radiculopathy

The Swedish Neuroscience Institute specializes in treating radiculopathy, which occurs when a nerve root in the spine is compressed, or pinched. There are three main types of radiculopathy:

  • Cervical radiculopathy, which occurs with compression of a nerve root in the neck and causes arm pain
  • Thoracic radiculopathy, which occurs with compression of a nerve root in the middle back and can cause a variety of radiating symptoms through the ribs and abdomen
  • Lumbar radiculopathy, which occurs with compression of a nerve root in the lower back and causes leg pain

Bone spurs, herniated discs, osteoarthritis, tumors, infection, trauma and inflammation all can cause radiculopathy. The most common form of radiculopathy is radiating pain in the arms or legs.

Treatment Options

Conservative care

At Swedish, our spine specialists and surgeons consider conservative, or non-surgical care, the first step in treatment for radiculopathy. Patients frequently respond well to this approach and see their symptoms improve within six weeks to three months.

Your conservative-care plan could include one or more of these treatments:

  • Anti-inflammatory pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injections
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Massage therapy
  • Aquatics
  • Acupuncture

Surgery

If you show no signs of improvement after an extended course of conservative care and you are becoming weak, surgery may be the next step. Surgery for radiculopathy could include:

  • Discectomy: If a herniated disc is causing the nerve to compress, the surgeon will remove the part of the disc that is causing the pressure.
  • Laminectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon makes space for the compressed nerve by removing the lamina, a bone at the back of each vertebra, in the affected area.

Your surgeon will recommend a procedure based on your physical exam, imaging studies and the cause of the radiculopathy. Your treatment team will then create a care plan tailored to your spinal condition.

To have a spinal condition assessed by a Swedish spine specialist, schedule a consultation online or call 206-320-BACK (2225).

Diagnosing and treating spine conditions