Sciatica and lumbar radiculopathy are often used interchangeably to refer to inflammation or compression of the spinal nerve found in the lower back. Radiculopathy is the medical term used for the actual nerve dysfunction secondary to the compression. On the other hand, sciatica refers to the leg or back pain that results from lumbar radiculopathy.
Radiculopathy or radicular pain often radiates into the lower extremity (calf, thigh, and sometimes the foot) along a specific spinal nerve root. Sciatica is the most common symptom of radicular pain. With sciatica, leg pain is often worse than the pain in the back. When the higher lumbar nerve roots are compressed, radicular pain can be experienced in the shin and the front of the thigh.
Lumbar radiculopathy can be attributed to various causes, including:
When there is compression or pressure of the spinal nerves, the increased pressure can damage or irritate peripheral nerves. Common symptoms that accompany a pinched spinal nerve include:
To diagnose the condition, the health history is reviewed, and a physical examination is carried out. Diagnostic imaging like MRI and X-rays may also be used to assist with the diagnosis. Once all the needed information has been gathered, lumbar radiculopathy treatment options will be identified.
Typically, when lumbar radiculopathy is diagnosed, nonsurgical and conservative treatment options are often considered. Fortunately, at least 90 percent of patients with lumbar radiculopathy respond well to conventional lumbar radiculopathy treatments.
Nonsurgical lumbar radiculopathy treatment options include:
If no improvement is noticed after six weeks of treatment, lumbar radiculopathy surgery may be recommended. If the patient experiences progressive muscle weakness and severe leg pain, lumbar radiculopathy surgery may be considered sooner.
Prevalent surgical options that can relieve lumbar radiculopathy include:
The primary goal of this surgical option is to relieve the spinal nerves pressure that’s causing the symptoms.
Microdiscectomy is the most common surgery performed for herniated disks. A one to two-inch incision is created in the spine where the herniation is located. Once the herniation is located, the herniated piece is removed. This type of surgery will last an hour or two.
Lumbar spinal fusion is one of the rarest treatment options for radiculopathy. It is only resorted to when the spinal segments become unstable or when they collapse. During the procedure, a vertebral bone is fused or attached to an adjacent vertebral bone.
While the fusion will minimize freedom of movement in the spine, immobility can also stop the spinal instability that is causing pain.
Lumbar radiculopathy is classified as a form of sciatica. It can develop due to pathologies such as foraminal or lateral stenosis, synovial cyst, and disk herniation. Common symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy include tingling and numbness, weakness of a group of muscles, and pain in the lower extremity. MicroTube Spine Surgery uses a minimalistic approach to the nerve impingement site and directly addresses its cause. Learn more about the benefits of MicroTube Spine Surgery by clicking here.