When nerve fibers in the lower back region (known as the lumbar) are abnormally compressed, a condition knows as lumbar radiculopathy ensues. Typical symptoms of this problem include pain and changes in sensation in the areas where the nerves are located. Oftentimes, a common type of lumbar radiculopathy is called by its more well-recognized name—sciatica—which defines specifically that the “sciatic” nerve is the one being impacted and compressed.
Lumbar radiculopathy typically occurs when an intervertebral disc herniates or ruptures, resulting in a squeezing of the nerve fibers in the localized region. Also, the advent of osteoarthritis and ensuing bone spurs can lead to a diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy when those spurs irritate the nerves around the spinal cord. And the condition can also manifest itself if spinal tumors are present or if there are problems with the alignment of vertebra (such as those found in people suffering from some form of scoliosis).
When the sciatic nerve is impacted negatively by lumbar radiculopathy, the sufferer can expect pain and changes in sensation in the leg muscles. Additionally, walking may become difficult along with sitting for extended periods.
A diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica is arrived at through a combined approach of a review of the patient’s medical history; a physical examination; and imaging studies such as x-ray, CT scans and MRIs, which can detect abnormalities in the discs of the lumbar region of the spine as well as any other conditions causing the symptoms. If a physician suspects that the nerve fibers running through the legs may be impacted, an electromyogram may be utilized to determine if electrical impulses are moving properly through the nerves of the affected area.
Treatment for lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica are relatively simple and typically work within two to three months: regular use of pain-relieving medications coupled with chiropractic and physical therapies as needed, both of which can aid in returning normal sensation to the affected areas. In rare circumstances the pressure being exerted on the nerves is serious enough to warrant surgery in the form of a laminectomy or discectomy, both of which can relieve the pressure and give respite from the symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica.