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Are you experiencing weakness, pain or even numbness from your spine? Then you are most likely suffering from radiculopathy. This is a disease that affects the spinal nerve roots. The nerve roots are divisions formed by the spinal nerves just before they join with the spinal cord.
As a human being, you have two nerves namely sensory nerves and motor nerves that connect to the spinal cord at the joints between the vertebrae. Each of these nerves has a function, the sensory nerves conduct information that are sensory in nature towards the central nervous system while the motor nerves conducts commands to muscles away from the central nervous system.
You will definitely experience pain, weakness, numbness and even an unusual sensation in the limbs or trunk without any stimuli a situation commonly known as paresthesia, if the spinal nerve roots have been damaged.
In the course of irritation of a given spinal nerve, pain will either be felt in the the skin area innervated by the sensory fibers also referred to as the region corresponding to a dermatome, or in dynatome. Though these dynatomes and dermatomes overlap, the do not usually coincide. The irritation in radiculopathy is brought about by the dis functioning of the spinal nerve hence pain and the other abnormalities.
Depending on the part of the your spinal cord is affected, you will know the type of radiculopathy you are suffering from. There are three categories namely, cervical, thoracic and lumbar(sciatica) radiculopathies which affect the neck, middle back and lower back respectively. Further categories of radiculopathies involves the vertebra they are associated with. For instance yours can be termed as C7 radiculopathy if its of the nerve roots at the level of the seventh cervical vertebra.
Let me give you distinctive examples that differentiate radiculopathy from other ailments that tend to look similar to it. Myelopathy is a problem that involves the spinal cord and not the nerve roots as in the case of radiculopathy. These problems involve the functional or pathological changes. You can also differentiate radiculopathy from radiculitis to get a clear distinction.
Apart from the difference in name, radiculitis is the irritation of the nerve root bringing forth pain to the dermatome or in other cases dynatome that is corresponding to that nerve. With radiculopathy, it i not just irritation, but spinal nerve dysfunction.
To be warned is to be fore armed, therefore it is important to know that as a human being chances of experiencing some form of radiculopathy at some point in your life are between average and high. This is because, radiculopathy mostly comes as a result of long-term diseases such as diabetes or the diseases that are commonly believed to affect the elderly such as arthritis.
Most cases of radiculopathy are reported on the middle aged grouped and the elderly as compared to the youth. This should not make you as a youth to be off guard because if you like heavy lifting and are very sporty, injuries resulting from it will put you at a very high risk of getting radiculopathy.
Am sure you are aware that any form of disease or illness has its causes and symptoms that distinguish it from the rest. Radiculopathy is not an exception because it has its causes that include:
You can make your own diagnosis of radiculopathy by monitoring the symptoms experienced. When the paresthesia, pain or weakness are in their extremes more especially in a dermatomal pattern, then the likelihood of radiculopathy are high. Caution should be taken by the physician in that he has to make a thorough check to be sure it is radiculopathy because such symptoms of pain can come as a result of nerve compression, so that you are not treated for the wrong disease.
Electro diagnostic studies, are studies that have come up to help physicians distinguish diagnosis from radiculopathy from other diagnosis. Diagnosis include current perception threshold testing, testing of sensory evoked, and electromyographic nerve conduction tests.
When you have been diagnosed with radiculopathy, just like any other patient you need treatment. A neurologist, orthopedist will be involved in the treatment together with other specialist depending on the radiculopathy’s cause. Treatment varies depending on the nature of it and how severe it is. The cause of the radiculopathy is also a factor to be considered in the treatment process.
The first attempt in the treatment is the non-surgical one.
This is where you are put in an exercise, rest and medication program. Physical therapists prescribe particular kinds of exercises to the patients in order to strengthen muscles and other tissues thus relieve pressure from the affected nerve roots. Medications that include oral opioid and painkillers are used in addition to weight loss by the patient so as to reduce stress on the spine. Surgery comes in only when conservative treatment fails.
Exercise is part and parcel of radiculopathy’s treatment whether conservative or surgical. In some cases, exercise turned out to be curative, therefore the exercise as directed by the physical therapist should be followed to the letter.
Clinical trials have been carried out to ascertain the effectiveness of two particular drugs in the curing of lumbar radiculopathy. These drugs are a type of morphine namely nortriptyline and MS Contin. Trials are still on going and in mid-2004 the phase 2 clinical trial was underway. This research is note a closed group type because it is open to any interested parties worldwide
Prediction of how a patient will progress, and whether there is a chance of recovery varies with the causes of that particular kind of radiculopathy. The ones caused by injuries as a result of sports have very good prognosis. The ones from degenerative disc disorder the prognosis is not so good because even surgery may not resolve the problem permanently but can improve it.