Lumbar Radiculopathy

The Problem

Lumbar radiculopathy refers to an irritation or compression of one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine.  Each nerve root supplies a very specific area of the buttocks, hips, legs and feet.  The location of symptoms, which may include pain, numbness, tingling or weakness, is determined by the nerve root structures affected.

Causes

Nerve roots can be affected by a variety of causes.  These include, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis.  In many cases, problems outside of the spine can mimic the symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis involves a thorough history and physical examination and may include nerve function testing, such as electromyography (EMG) and imaging tests, such as MRI.  The EMG can help determine the nerve roots that have been affected, the relative age of the injury and its prognosis. 

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.  Treatments may involve a combination of medications, physical therapy, spinal injection or, in a small percentage of cases, surgery.