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Lumbar Radiculopathy

Fox Valley Back Pain Specialists

Radiculopathy results from compression or irritation of a nerve root as it leaves the spinal cord. Although symptoms may be experienced throughout the back, the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) portions of the spine are most commonly impacted by radiculopathy. Degenerative changes and age-related wear and tear are frequently to blame for this type of lower back pain, but sports injury or trauma may also be responsible for pinched nerves and lumbar radiculopathy symptoms.

Causes of Lumbar Radiculopathy

The spinal column consists of nearly three dozen vertebrae, cushioned by flexible discs positioned between the bones. Through various processes, the structures naturally deteriorate with age, sometimes impinging the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. When compression, inflammation, and irritation affect nerves in the lower back, it results in lumbar radiculopathy. Common causes and risk factors for developing radiculopathy in the lower spine include:

  • Excessive load or force on the spine
  • Repetitive strenuous activities using the back
  • Contact sports injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Degenerative processes
  • Genetics/family history of radiculopathy
  • Osteophytes (bone spurs)
  • Herniated disc with nerve compression
  • Job-related back strain
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Thickening of surrounding ligaments
  • Osteoarthritis

Less frequently, nerves in the lower back become compressed by a tumor growing in the area, and disorders such as scoliosis can also involve nerves on the sides of the spine, leading to radiculopathy. Scar tissue, present from a prior surgery, is another rare cause of nerve compression in the lower spine.

Description of Lumbar Radiculopathy

The effects of radiculopathy vary, according to the location of the compression and inflammation. Nerves in the lumbar region are responsible for with sensation in the legs and buttocks, so irritation in the lumbar spine typically leads to symptoms in these areas. Deep, steady pain radiating along the back of the leg and calf, moving into the foot, may involve the sciatic nerve, resulting in the complaint commonly termed “sciatica”. Nerve pain associated with radiculopathy in the lumbar may be made worse by sitting, walking, or positioning the body in certain ways.

Symptoms of Lumbar Radiculopathy

Typically first appearing between the ages of 30 and 50, lumbar radiculopathy, or pinched nerve in the lower back, may present the following symptoms:

  • Localized back pain
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Weakness in the extremities
  • Sciatica
  • Cramping sensation
  • Hypersensitivity to touch in the affected area
  • Muscle weakness in areas controlled by the affected nerve
  • Tingling/pins-and-needles
  • Burning sensation

Contact Fox Valley Orthopedics online or call us at (630) 584-1400 for an appointment.


Fox Valley Orthopedics Is Expanding In The Barrington, Algonquin & Elgin Area!

Starting September 1, help us welcome 6 new board-certified surgeons:

  • Anthony Savino, MD – Spine

  • Michael Kogan, MD – Sports Medicine

  • Vincent Cannestra, MD – Joint Replacement

  • James Seeds, MD – Sports Medicine

  • Joshua Alpert, MD – Sports Medicine

  • Lauren Matteini, MD – Spine