Lumbar refers to the low back region. Nerve roots exit the back to enter the legs. Nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord and carry messages to and from the brain and the lower extremities and pelvis. If one of these roots is sick or injured in the area where it leaves the spine, it is called a radiculopathy. Symptoms usually arise in people between the ages of 30 and 50 and may follow an injury or occur with no warning. Sciatica is pain that radiates from the back down the back of the leg, and is a common manifestation of lumbar radiculopathy. Other common symptoms are numbness and tingling of the leg or foot, weakness, and muscle spasms. 80% to 90% of patients with sciatica recover without surgery.
What causes Lumbar Radiculopathy?
Many disease states can cause lumbar radiculopathy, but most often it is a structural problem like a herniated disc, bone spur, or mechanical stretching or traumatic event. Discs may be damaged from strenuous activity, a congenital defect, or by injury. When the disc is damaged, material in the disc leaks and squeezes the nerve root. This can cause the numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness.
How is Lumbar Radiculopathy diagnosed?
After the initial examination, the diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy can be supported by electrodiagnosis, MRI, CT scans, and/or contrast myelography. Treatment of lumbar radiculopathy will vary depending on the actual cause of the radiculopathy. These treatments can include the use of back supports, medication, physical therapy, steroid injection in the spine, and even surgery.
Radicular pain is often secondary to compression or inflammation of a spinal nerve. When the pain radiates down the back of the leg to the calf or foot, it would in lay terms be described as sciatica. This type of pain is often deep and steady, and can usually be reproduced with certain activities and positions, such as sitting or walking.