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Radiculopathy and sciatica

Radiculopathy and sciatica can cause pain throughout your body. When you come to Twin Cities Spine Center, your spine specialist will use our practice's collective expertise to determine the cause of your pain and prescribe effective treatment.

What is radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is pain caused by inflammation or pressure on a nerve as it leaves the spine. Similar to a tree, nerve roots are branches of your spinal cord that carry signals to the rest of your body at each level along your spine. Compression of the nerve can happen at any point along this path. Some of the most common sites of compression are at the spine in the neck, mid back, or low back.

Radiculopathy can be caused by a variety of sources, including a herniated or ruptured disc, stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal), bone spurs, spondylolisthesis (slipping of the vertebra) or scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine). All of these conditions can press on your nerves and cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the areas of your body served by the affected nerve roots. The pain experienced can be sharp, dull, or aching. When involving the neck, pain can travel into the neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, and arms. When involving the thoracic or mid back, the pain can travel into the chest or flank. When involving the low back or lumbar spine, the pain can be expected in the back, buttock, down the leg, or into the feet.

What is sciatica?

The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and begins as several nerves from the lumbar spine and sacrum. The term sciatica describes pain from irritation of this nerve most commonly at the spine level. This pain often travels from the lower back through the buttock and into the legs. Sciatica describes a type of radiculopathy that occurs when the sciatic nerve is being pinched by a herniated disc, bone spurs, or shifting of the vertebra. It is the most common form of radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy and sciatica treatment

The highly skilled spine specialists at Twin Cities Spine Center have the knowledge and expertise to determine whether your symptoms are due to radiculopathy or are the result of musculoskeletal sprains and strains.

Your diagnosis begins with a thorough clinical exam. You'll receive a full neurological assessment and your doctor may order an electromyographic test to help diagnose which nerve root(s) are involved. An MRI and other x-ray imaging tests may be ordered to ensure there's no injury, deformity, or instability of the spinal column.

Once the source of your radiculopathy has been identified, you will discuss a treatment plan that might include anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants. Physical therapy may also be prescribed.

Sciatica treatments include exercises, nerve-blocking injections and possibly decompression surgery to take the pressure off the pinched nerve. Twin Cities Spine Center has a team of experienced surgeons to perform the operation should it become part of your personalized treatment plan.

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