What is Lumbar Radiculopathy?
Lumbar radiculopathy is a collection of symptoms that occurs when a nerve within the back is compressed or irritated as it leaves the spinal column. The symptoms caused are often referred to as ‘sciatica’, felt as numbness, shooting pain or weakness in the legs, feet and/or hip area.
When intervertebral discs in the spine are injured – called a disc bulge or prolapse, it places pressure on the nerve, triggering the condition. These discs are the shock absorbers found between the bones in your spine.
While Radiculopathy can happen at any level it is most common in the Lumbar and Cervical Spine
What are the causes?
For those under 50 years of age, the most common cause is a disc bulge or herniation, whereas for over 50 years, it is more likely triggered by degenerative changes. Imaging is not required to diagnose radicular pain as physiotherapists can make a good estimate about the source of the pain.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of a radiculopathy vary depending on the cause and the nerve root that is affected.
- Sudden pain – shooting, severe, burning and/or aching
- Tingling (similar to pins and needles sensations)
- Numbness (complete or just a decreased sensation)
- Muscle/limb weakness
- Muscle spasm or tightness
- Loss of or reduced reflexes
- Inability to stand up straight or maintain balance
Treatment for Lumbar Radiculopathy
Physiotherapy is an effective way to reduce pain and encourage recovery from lumbar radiculopathy. Problems with the discs are not necessarily permanent, however it can take weeks to recover. Current guidelines suggest at least 6 weeks of conservative management before seeking other treatment options.
At Vitalis Physiotherapy, treatment is aimed at stabilising the spinal column, using exercise to unload the spine and reduce pressure on the spinal nerve roots. This is done through:
Anti-inflammatory and/or analgesic medication, rest and heat packs may help some of the symptoms.
Recovery typically takes a couple of months, however this depends on the severity of the disc bulge and nerve root compression. It is important that you do not engage in strenuous activity or sport as this may worsen or aggravate the condition. If symptoms persist your physiotherapist may refer you back to your GP for further investigations or a referral to a specialist.
What can I do at home?
Staying relatively active can help. By using the principles of pacing you can still do a lot of the activities that you usually do. You may need to break the task up into smaller more easily managed tasks or reduce the time doing the task with a big rest in between.
How to book an appointment?
If you think that you may be suffering from radicular pain, our physio’s at Vitalis Physiotherapy can assess and diagnose the condition. They may also refer you to get scans in some severe cases to better understand your needs. They will then tailor your treatment plan to aid in your pain relief and recovery.
All you need to do is just give us a call on 0410 559 856 and request an initial appointment. Please let our friendly reception staff know the background and severity of your condition.
You can visit our FAQs for more information about appointments at Vitalis Physiotherapy.