Radicular pain, or Radiculopathy, is characterized by pain that “radiates” into the extremities (arm or leg), directly along a specific course of a spinal nerve path.
If you’ve heard of or suffer from the condition Sciatica, then you’re already familiar with a common form of radicular pain. Sciatica is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve down the back of the thigh and sometimes into the calf and foot. Other forms of radicular pain include arm pain and paresthesia of the hand.
Many people find that Chiropractic care is very effective in relieving their radicular pain. Through non-invasive treatments, Chiropractors can reduce pressure on the nerve roots, and as the nerve recovers, the symptoms become less sensitive.
Causes of Radicular Pain:
- Herniated disc: The most frequent cause of radicular pain. It occurs when all or part of a disc is forced through a weakened part of the vertebral disc. This may place pressure on nearby nerves.
- Foraminal stenosis: Occurs when the cervical disc space becomes narrow as one joint start enlarging, ever so slightly squeezing one nerve root on one side. Doctors refer to this as cervical foraminal stenosis.
Much less common causes of radicular pains include:
- Tumor: Swelling in the spine
- Diabetes: Can potentially reduce blood flow around the nerve
Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy
Pain can be accompanied by numbness and tingling, muscle weakness and loss of reflexes. These sensations radiate into the extremities (thigh, calf, and occasionally the foot or to the arm, forearm or hand), away from the center of the body. This type of pain is often deep and steady, and can usually be reproduced with certain activities and positions, such as sitting or walking. In addition, radicular pain is often intensified by any movement that increases cerebrospinal fluid pressure, such as sneezing or cough.
Treatment of Radicular Pain
Seeking treatment for radiculitis should not be delayed. In severe cases, muscles may start to atrophy and in turn, will require physical therapy for recovery. Also, radiculitis may cause one to “favor” certain (or a certain side of their body) in the hope to avoid the pain, which causes those muscles to overdevelop compared to their other counterparts and result in abnormal force on joints and degenerative damage.
In most cases, conventional medical doctors will propose pain medications to alleviate the symptoms. If the medication doesn’t help, they may then suggest prolonged spinal injections and physical therapy. Then, if their “conservative” treatment does not alleviate the pain, decompressive surgery may be recommended.
The Chiropractic Approach
Chiropractic care can be effective in cases of radiculitis by resolving the underlying CAUSE of the nerve root irritation and restoring it to its normal function, so that the patient can return to health.
With an MRI of the impinging nerve root, a trained chiropractor can help alleviate radicular pain by pinpointing the specific area where the pain may be coming from. They will make use of a number of non-invasive techniques to take the pressure off the nerve by realigning the vertebrae.
Chiropractic treatment may include:
- Spinal manipulation or mobilization when lumbar spine related
- Spinal traction / Spinal decompression
- Massage Therapy
- Application of ice (to reduce the inflammation) and/or heat (to encourage blood flow to help the irritated area to heal)
- Recommendations to modify personal habits and lifestyle to prevent future worsening of the underlying cause (including diet, body mechanics, and a stretching and exercise program)
Over 80% of Radicular Pain Cases Improve with Chiropractic
A recent study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine showed that about 85% of patients who underwent conservative, non-surgical treatment of radiculopathy experienced resolution of their complaint within an average of 9 sessions. (Christensen & Buswell, 2008).
Another study that was published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that spinal manipulative therapy improved the condition of 55.3% of the patients suffering from cervical radiculopathy within 2 weeks. On the forth week, 68.9% were better and by the third month 85.7% noticed a decrease in pain (Peterson, Schmid, Leemann, Anklin, & Humphreys, 2013).
Have you experienced pain, numbness, or tingling emanating from your back down your legs? What about the same symptoms radiating from your neck to your shoulders and arms?
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