Your spine is made of many bones (vertebrae) and your spinal cord runs through a canal in the center of those bones. Nerve roots split from the spinal cord and travel between the vertebrae into different areas of the body. When those nerve roots are pinched or become damaged, the symptoms that result are called radiculopathy. There are different names depending on where it occurs in the spine as well as different symptoms.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs when there is a compressed nerve root in the neck, or cervical spine. The nerve roots in this area primarily control sensations in your hands and arms, so you will most likely feel symptoms there.
Thoracic radiculopathy refers to a compressed nerve root in your upper back, which is the thoracic area of the spine. The symptoms usually follow a dermatomal distribution and can cause pain and numbness that wraps around to the front of your body. This is the least common location for radiculopathy to occur.
Lumbar radiculopathy is when radiculopathy occurs in the lower back. It is also referred to as sciatica because nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve are often involved. This is the area most frequently affected by radiculopathy.
Causes of Radiculopathy
A bulging or herniated disc is a common cause of radiculopathy. On occasion, the spinal discs that act as cushions between your vertebrae slip out of place or become damaged, pressing on nerves. This typically happens in the lower back but can also affect the neck. Thickening of the spinal ligaments may lead to narrowing of the space around the nerve roots and subsequent nerve compression.
How Can Physical Therapy Help?
Your physical therapist will determine where the nerve is being impinged and irritated in order to determine appropriate treatment. Your treatment will depend on which nerve is involved, but may include joint mobilizations and soft tissue mobilization to reduce compression on the nerve, stretches to help restore spinal movement, functional strengthening, and postural training to reduce irritation. You will also be provided with a home exercise program.
Peak Physical Therapy
Our South Shore Physical Therapy practice specializes in unique health and wellness programs including a new Pelvic Health Program for men, women, and pediatrics. Locations include Norwell, MA, Scituate, MA, Quincy, MA, and Hanover, MA. Our specialized programs combined with state-of-the-art facilities allow us to meet the unique needs of our local patients and achieve the fastest results. If you are unsure whether this type of treatment can help you, we offer a no-obligation FREE injury screening. Click here for more information.
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