Lumbar radiculopathy occurs when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed or inflamed. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in any area from your lower back to your feet.
Factors that may increase your risk of lumbar radiculopathy include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests evaluate the spine and other structures. Imaging test may include:
In most cases, lumbar radiculopathy goes away when the cause of the symptoms improves. If problems persist, symptoms can be managed.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include one or more of the following:
Corsets and back braces support posture and may reduce pain.
Spinal decompression, or traction, relieves pressure around pinched nerves in the spinal column. Spinal discs are slowly pulled apart allowing for blood and nutrients to heal the spine.
Medications used to treat lumbar radiculopathy include:
If the lumbar radiculopathy is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
Continue normal activities unless it causes pain. Staying active helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
You will be referred to a physical therapist for specific exercises. Exercises also improve range of motion. Physical therapy may also include other techniques such as massage, manual therapy, heating, cooling or ultrasound treatments. Your therapist can also provide back care education including proper posture and body mechanics.
If no other treatments work, surgery may be an option for you. The goal of surgery is to relieve nerve compression and reduce pain. Surgical procedures may include:
To help reduce your chance of developing some causes of lumbar radiculopathy:
American Chronic Pain Association
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Canadian Pain Society
Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116935/Chronic-low-back-pain. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116077/Lumbar-disk-herniation. Updated May 13, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Lumbar radiculopathy. Advancing Neuromuscular, Musculoskeletal, and Electrodiagnostic Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aanem.org/Education/Patient-Resources/Disorders/Lumbar-Radiculopathy.aspx. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Lumbar radiculopathy. Spine Health website. Available at: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lumbar-radiculopathy. Updated April 25, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Lumbar spinal stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114133/Lumbar-spinal-stenosis. Updated May 16, 2016. Accessed October 3, 2016.
Physical therapist's guide to low back pain. Move Forward—American Physical Therapy Association website. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=d0456c65-7906-4453-b334-d9780612bdd3#.Vfl8WZcTDOt. Updated June 2, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Laura Lei-Rivera, DPT
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.