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Compression on a nerve where it exits the spine can cause pain and/or neuropathies not only in the neck or back, but also in the limbs. Some people may have hip or knee pain but later learn they have no injuries in these parts of the body. Rather, they have referred pain caused by radiculopathy.

A person holding their neck in pain.

What is radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a pinching or inflammation of a nerve at its exit point from the spine, called the neural foramen.

What are the symptoms of radiculopathy?

The symptoms of radiculopathy may include pain, numbness, and/or weakness in different areas of the neck, back, arms, hands, hips or legs, depending on which section of the spine is affected. Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerves in the neck region of the spine) and lumbar radiculopathy (compressed nerves in the lower back) are most common forms and, lumbar radiculopathy that affects the sciatica nerve is commonly called sciatica. Thoracic radiculopathy (affecting the mid back) can also occur, but is less common.

Sciatica or other radiculopathy symptoms accompanied by incontinence or numbness in the groin or buttocks could indicate cauda equina syndrome, a compression of a grouping of lumbar nerve roots that can lead to paralysis or other serious conditions if not treated quickly.

What causes radiculopathy?

Common conditions of the spine that can cause radiculopathy include herniated discs, spondylosis (osteoarthritis of the spine), and spinal stenosis. Radiculopathy can also result from bone spurs, spinal tumors and other changes in the spine, such as spondylolisthesis.

What is the treatment for radiculopathy?

Nonsurgical treatments can include physical therapy or epidural steroid injections. If these treatments do not work, some type of spinal decompression surgery may be recommended.

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