What on earth is spinal radiculopathy? As defined by MedicineNet, it is an irritation caused by worn protruding discs. The pain typically radiates down the buttocks and through the thigh, often reaching into the ankles when it is most severe. It is described as burning, aching and agonizing pain due to the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
The Spine Institute says that radiculopathy is one of the 6 leading causes of sciatica:
Most of us are aware of what bulging discs are. But many of us don’t understand stenosis or how spurs can occur, much less know what spondylolisthesis is:) Stenosis is primarily a result of the aging process, but can be exacerbated by trauma. In the process, as the spinal nerves pass through the foramen to other parts of the body, they become narrow or compressed. Often the pain of stenosis is relieved by changing positions or simply resting the back. However, when nerve compression is severe, then further measures are called for.
Spondylolisthesis is characterized as a developmental type problem and can be seen at birth. When one vertebrae, slips or slides over another vertebrae, compression and pain result. It can also be part of an overall aging/degenerative syndrome, or even caused by lifting heavy weights.
Tumors, malignant or benign can cause sciatic pain. If the tumor grows quickly, compressing the nerve further, than severe, unrelenting pain can occur. These types of spinal tumors though are rare, especially in contrast to the other causes.
A fall of other injury can also create a lumbar radiculopathy. It is seen in victims of vehicular accidents, among football and rugby players and in older people who have suffered a fall.
Piriformis Syndrome is named after the muscle that irritates the sciatic nerve. The piriformis muscle, overlays the sciatic nerve, so when it becomes inflamed, pain results.
Another cause of this nerve pain are bone spurs. According to the Spine Health Institute, spurs are actually a normal result of the aging process. They are found in men at a younger age (40-50). Post menopausal women are seen in increasing numbers from 50 on. It usually can be found in patients who do repetitive work involving lifting, or in cases of trauma to the spine. It can cause a dull lower back pain along with sciatic pain radiating from the buttocks.
When more than one of these factors is present, the pain level can increase dramatically. And if a patient begins experiencing urinary and bowel incontinence, then surgery must be considered as an option. Your physician will usually order spinal films and a C.A.T. scan to look for the causes of your pain. An MRI can pinpoint clearly, in many cases where the damage is.
Short of surgery, there are standard treatments for spinal radiculopathy. These include medications to ease pain and lessen inflammation to the sciatic nerve:
cortisone injections to the spinal area-epidural
Surgical options can provide some lasting relief for patients who suffer in almost constant pain. Much depends on the age and physical status of the patient. Laser surgery, which is less invasive and touts some good results is available, but not always fully covered by insurance. For patients who cannot undergo surgery, pain management is a reasonable option. Using biofeedback and an array of anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications, many patients can at least begin to live a normal life.
Sciatic pain can be debilitating and stress your entire cardiovascular system. Which can lead to hypertension and damage, given too much time. If you have been suffering with severe pain like this, go to your doctor. If you cannot get help there, find another physician who can help. Remember, long term pain can cause further damage to your entire body, weakening it and leaving you open to infection. Men especially need to understand, there is no sense in toughing this one out. Many of these lumbar problems can be dealt with fairly quickly and easily. Don’t wait until a small problem becomes a big one.