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Understanding Radiculitis: 5 Things You Need to Know Today

Jan 19, 2018

older man sitting on couch feeling effects of radiculitis pain

Radiculitis is a general term used to describe a condition involving an inflammation of a nerve due to abnormal pressure. Symptoms typically follow the path of the nerve where the tissue originates in the spine and include varying degrees of pain, numbness and tingling or muscle weakness. The condition may occur anywhere along the neck, thoracic or lumbar spine. When detected and treated early, patients experience symptomatic relief and complete recovery.

 

Cervical Radiculitis

 

The discomfort commonly begins with localized neck pain. When nerves in the cervical 6 or 7 are involved, symptoms often include pain that extends from the neck to the front of the shoulder and down the outer edge of the arm and forearm. C6 involvement might also cause pain or numbness along the back side of the thumb and index finger. C7 nerve involvement can cause pain and numbness that extends down to the middle finger. If untreated, the affected arm may suffer muscle weakness.

 

Thoracic Radiculitis

 

Compressed nerves in the thoracic region commonly cause abnormal sensations in the chest area. Patients may experience numbness or tingling. Some feel as if a band was tightening around their chest.

 

Lumbar Radiculitis

 

In this region, individual nerves or the entire cauda equina nerve group may become affected. Sciatica is one of the more well-known conditions affecting the lumbar region and can produce symptoms down to the front or back of the leg. The discomfort might feel like burning or a sharp pain that often begins on one side of the lower back and extends into the hip, buttock and the back of the thigh. When the pain radiates to the front, patients also often experience pain in the groin area. The discomfort might also extend to the calf and foot. When the L5 nerve is involved, patients experience numbness in their great toe and along the inside of the foot. In severe cauda equina cases, a patient may lose control over the bladder and bowel. The condition is then considered an emergency and requires surgical intervention.

 

Radiculitis Causes

 

Many factors increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:

  • The natural aging process
  • Becoming overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Chronically poor posture
  • Movements that repetitively put stress on the spinal column
  • Improper lifting techniques

Nerve compression and inflammation can also develop secondary to various biological abnormalities. These conditions include:

  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative bone diseases
  • Traumatic injury
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Tumors

Radiculitis Treatments

The location of the discomfort, the severity and duration of symptoms are used to help diagnose the problem and determine a course of treatment. If left untreated, the condition may progress to permanent nerve damage.

Once diagnosed, patients receive treatment based on the symptoms and a physical examination. The first course of action is often taking OTC analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications for mild to moderate pain along with modifying physical activity. Mild cases are also often helped by alternating hot and cold compresses.

Specific exercises recommended by a physician or physical therapy help alleviate pressure on the affected nerve. Deep tissue massage works to relax tightened muscles and decrease pain. Physicians may prescribe narcotic pain medication and anti-inflammatory formulations on a short-term basis if the patient experiences severe pain. Anti-inflammatory treatment might also include steroid injections or a combination of steroid and anesthetic injections in the affected spinal region, which alleviates inflammation, swelling and moderate to severe pain. Prescription muscle relaxant medications help relieve the stress on affected nerves by relaxing the surrounding muscles. Muscle relaxers also relieve painful muscle spasms.

In the majority of cases, traditional treatments and time allow the problem to heal in approximately two months without the need for surgical intervention. However, when conventional treatment methods fail to improve the condition, physicians may recommend that the patient undergo corrective surgery. Using minimally invasive techniques, surgeons decompress the affected nerve by eliminating bone spurs, repairing herniated discs, or removing growths. If you are considering surgery to alleviate the effects of your radiculitis, you know that finding the right physician can be a challenge. At Back Pain Centers of America (BPC), we make finding quality care easy—call us today at  1-844-201-1308 and one of our patient coordinators can match you with a board-certified specialist near you. Making the decision to have surgery can be hard, but finding a quality doctor shouldn’t be.



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