When certain vertebrae are injured or damaged in some way, pressure is exerted on nerve roots or the Sciatic nerve causing Lumbar Radiculopathy.  This will cause pain among other symptoms.   

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Lumbar Radiculopathy

Doctors refer to any illness or condition affecting the nerve roots and causing nerve problems in the lower (lumbar) back as lumbar radiculopathy. The cause is usually the compression of a spinal nerve and it will cause pain. This sort of pain stays deep and does not go away.  The pain might become triggered by specific movements or positions.

When the bottom two vertebrae in the spine become injured or damaged or the sciatic nerve or nerve root is compressed, sciatica appears. Sciatica causes numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and loss of certain reflexes, and pain. As such, the word Sciatica refers to the resulting nerve pain that radiates down one or both legs to the foot. Sciatica is a word used for pain along the sciatic nerve.  Sciatica defines the location of the pain but doctors do not use this as a diagnosis. A combination of the patient’s history (including a description of the pain) and a physical exam provides doctors with the information to make a clinical diagnosis. Doctors use imaging (MRI & CT) to confirm the diagnosis and ID the problem nerve location.

When doctors find genuine nerve damage, they use radiculopathy as the word to describe the condition.

Questions and Answers

What is Lumbar Radiculopathy?

Lumbar radiculopathy, also known as sciatica, refers to a condition characterized by the compression or irritation of a nerve root in the lower back (lumbar spine). This can occur due to various causes, such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. Lumbar radiculopathy typically manifests as pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness that radiates from the lower back down the leg along the path of the affected nerve.

What are the common symptoms of Lumbar Radiculopathy?

The common symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy include:

  • Sharp, shooting pain: The pain often starts in the lower back and radiates down the buttock, thigh, and leg. It appears as a burning, electric shock-like sensation.
  • Numbness and tingling: Along with the pain, individuals may experience numbness or tingling sensations in the leg or foot, commonly following the path of the affected nerve.
  • Muscle weakness: In some cases, lumbar radiculopathy can lead to muscle weakness, making it difficult to lift the foot or move the leg.
How is Lumbar Radiculopathy Treated?

The treatment for lumbar radiculopathy depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. Conservative treatment options include:

  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications may be used to manage pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Specific exercises and stretches can help strengthen the core and back muscles, improve flexibility, and alleviate pressure on the affected nerve.
  • Epidural steroid injections: Injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief from pain and other symptoms.
  • Rest and activity modification: Avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms and incorporating periods of rest can promote healing and reduce stress on the affected nerve.
  • In some cases, if conservative treatments fail to provide relief or if symptoms worsen, surgical intervention may be considered. Surgical options may involve removing a herniated disc, decompressing the nerve, or stabilizing the spine.


Compression of the nerves owing to “wear and tear,” or trauma appears as the most common cause of lumbar radiculopathy. The majority of instances are caused by disc herniation, cysts, and spinal canal constriction. Tumors and infections are two more uncommon reasons. Our doctors specialize in the spine and are trained to diagnose and treat lumbar radiculopathy.

Risk Factors:

Men are somewhat more likely than women to develop lumbar radiculopathy, and the average age at the time of disc surgery is 40. Driving vocations, frequent lifting, twisting motions, heavy industry labor, back injuries, higher height, smoking, overweight, sedentary lifestyle, numerous pregnancies, back pain history, and chronic cough are all risk factors.  This includes bulging discs, spinal stenosis, or injury to the spine. Often a patient may “overdo” a certain strenuous activity, such as gardening or lifting boxes

Area of Pain Distribution

Sciatic pain can occur when an affected spinal nerve root travels directly into the thigh, calf, and sometimes the foot. Sciatica causes pain that goes along the sciatic nerve, down the back of the thigh and calf into the foot. Leg pain becomes more severe than lower back pain.  The affected parts of the leg and/or foot are determined by the nerve in the lower back that becomes impacted. Pain in the front of the leg and shin can originate from the compression of upper lumbar nerve roots.

Causes of Lumbar Radiculopathy

This condition can result from a variety of factors that irritate or compress the spinal nerve roots, such as lumbar disc herniation, spinal stenosis, and a host of other conditions.

Diagnosis of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Compression and/or damage to a spinal nerve root in the low back causes radiculopathy. The following identifies the most common causes of this sort of pain:

  • The most common cause stems from a herniated disc with nerve compression.
  • Stenosis appears more frequently in seniors (a narrowing of the spine).
  • Nerve root damage from diabetes
  • Previous spinal surgery scar tissue that causes damage to the nerve root.

Treatment of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar RadiculopathyNonsurgical treatment (including physical therapy, medicines, and specific spinal injections, among other things) is suggested for six to eight weeks. Decompressive surgery normally occurs if nonsurgical therapy fails to relieve the pain. For 85 percent to 90 percent of patients, this type of surgery offers relief from leg pain. This form of surgery may begin prior to six weeks of non-surgical treatment for individuals with major leg pain or other symptoms, such as developing muscle weakness. Back surgery for leg pain appears far more reliable than back surgery for low back pain. The intensity of leg pain and/or the presence of muscular weakness normally determines the need for surgery.  Back surgery does not enter into the picture if the nerve compression cannot get verified by an MRI or CT scan.

When you first read that lumbar radiculopathy is the term that spine specialists use for sciatica, it may sound bizarre and unusual. It’s a common ailment and one of the main reasons patients seek a spine surgeon. Up to 5% of Americans may suffer from lumbar radiculopathy. While most cases of this nerve problem cure themselves, the pain might become persistent in some cases. Our specialists are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar radiculopathy.  They keep on the cutting edge of neurosurgery by using the most up-to-date treatments. For example, minimally invasive techniques reduce recovery time when surgery occurs as the only option. However, keep in mind that early treatment of back pain helps to prevent surgery.

7 Nonsurgical Procedures that Provide Comfort Without Surgery

Physical therapy

Conservative back pain treatment recommends exercise under the guidance of a physical therapist. A personal back pain program can help you strengthen the muscles that support your spine while also improving your ability to move.

Drug therapy

Analgesics, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxants, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medications, form a drug treatment strategy. As such, drug therapy is frequently used to ease the pain.

Injection-based treatments

When the position of nerve compression becomes known, corticosteroid injections, nerve blocks, nerve ablations, and other procedures may help reduce or stop the pain.

Activity modifications

Activity and task analysis may help to reduce the burden of lumbar radiculopathy. Therefore, finding alternatives begins with knowing which motions or jobs cause your pain. For instance, using a cart to haul groceries may eliminate a cause of nerve pain.

Diet changes

Your diet may contribute to a healthy body.  Thus, eating incorrectly with processed meals high in refined sugar and trans fats is not good. However, eating correctly will help lose weight and relieve pressure on the spinal column.

Alternative medicine

Alternative therapies such as acupuncture and chiropractic care may reduce the effects of lumbar radiculopathy, however, they are not beneficial for everyone. In addition, biofeedback and electrical nerve stimulation are two more options that some people find helpful.


Chronic pain causes both physical and mental stress, which can lead to irritability, rage, and despair. Also, yoga, tai chi, and regulated breathing exercises provide meditative treatments that might help you manage back pain.

About Southwest Scoliosis Institute

Appointments within 24 HoursFrom the first time you walk into our offices in either DallasPlano, or Frisco, Texas you will feel at ease. You will talk to one of our expert doctors.  Our doctors will listen and understand your problem and perform a detailed exam.  Based on your phone call, you may be asked to undergo a diagnostic study before your appointment (such as X-rays or MRIs). Because your spine specialist can learn lots of information from your symptoms and your physical assessment during your appointment, these tests will enable the doctor to have an in-depth knowledge of your condition.

The doctor will review your scans and other tests with you, in detail, and provide a diagnosis. After you become well-informed, you and your doctor will plan the right treatment. Finally, if your Spine Specialist feels that surgery is not the right decision in your case, he’ll tell you that, too, and offer a non-surgical remedy as to the first course of treatment.


National Institute of Health: Lumbar Radiculopathy


If you or your loved one is suffering from back pain from a spinal condition, there is hope. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.