Lumbar radiculopathy is when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are pinched or damaged. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back to the feet.
It is caused by problems that cause swelling or pinching of a spinal nerve, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Birth defects in the spine
- Hard physical activities, such as heavy lifting
- Being overweight
- Prior spinal surgery
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lower spine.
Electromyography (EMG) may be done to check the electrical activity of the muscles.
Images may be taken of the spine. This can be done with:
Most people feel better when the cause of the symptoms improves. Others may need to manage symptoms. This can be done with:
Corsets and back braces can be used to support the spine and ease pain. Traction may also be used to pull spinal discs apart to ease pressure around pinched nerves.
Medicines used to treat this problem are:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Prescription pain relievers
- Muscle relaxers
- Corticosteroid injections into the spine to ease swelling
Some activities may need to be limited if they cause pain. Physical therapy can help improve balance, strength, and range of motion during this time.
Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. The goal of surgery is to ease pain and pressure on the pinched nerve. This may be done with:
This problem cannot always be prevented. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight may help lower the risk.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
- Review Date: 09/2019 -
- Update Date: 12/04/2019 -