• Lumbar Radiculopathy


    Lumbar radiculopathy occurs when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed or inflamed. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in any area from your lower back to your feet.
    Area Affected By Lumbar Radiculopathy
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    Lumbar radiculopathy may be the result of a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, bone spur, or injury affecting the nerve. This causes inflammation or compression of a spinal nerve.

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of lumbar radiculopathy include:
    • Birth defects in the structure of the disc
    • Strenuous activity, especially heavy lifting
    • Overstretching
    • Overweight
    • Injury
    • Diabetes
    • Previous spinal surgery


    Lumbar radiculopathy may cause:
    • Tingling
    • Pain
    • Numbness
    • Weakness
    • Muscle spasms


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Tests may include:
    • Physical mobility tests
    • Pain sensation tests
    • Reflex tests
    • Electrodiagnostics to test nerve conduction speed
    Imaging tests evaluate the spine and other structures. Imaging test may include:


    In most cases, lumbar radiculopathy goes away when the cause of the symptoms improves. If problems persist, symptoms can be managed.
    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include one or more of the following:

    Non-surgical Treatments

    Corsets and back braces support posture and may reduce pain.
    Spinal decompression, or traction, relieves pressure around pinched nerves in the spinal column. Spinal discs are slowly pulled apart allowing for blood and nutrients to heal the spine.
    Medications used to treat lumbar radiculopathy include:
    • Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
    • Prescription pain relievers
    • Antidepressants
    • Muscle relaxers
    • Corticosteroid injections into the spine
    If the lumbar radiculopathy is caused by a bacterial infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.
    Physical Therapy
    Continue normal activities unless it causes pain. Staying active helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
    You will be referred to a physical therapist for specific exercises. Exercises also improve range of motion. Physical therapy may also include other techniques such as massage, manual therapy, heating, cooling or ultrasound treatments. Your therapist can also provide back care education including proper posture and body mechanics.
    Your doctor may refer you to counseling. Counseling will help you manage chronic pain through single or group therapy.


    If no other treatments work, surgery may be an option for you. The goal of surgery is to relieve nerve compression and reduce pain. Surgical procedures may include:
    • Laminectomy—an open procedure to remove a portion of the bony arch of the spine
    • Microdiscectomy—a portion of the herniated disc is removed with instruments or a laser


    To help reduce your chance of developing some causes of lumbar radiculopathy:
    • Maintain proper weight with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
    • Learn how to properly lift heavy items.
    • Exercise your back to keep muscles strong and flexible.
    • Use proper technique when playing sports to avoid back injury.
    • Avoid excess straining or stretching of your neck and back.


    American Chronic Pain Association http://www.theacpa.org

    Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org


    Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

    Canadian Pain Society http://www.canadianpainsociety.ca


    Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 30, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 24, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Lumbar radiculopathy. Advancing Neuromuscular, Musculoskeletal, and Electrodiagnostic Medicine website. Available at: http://www.aanem.org/Education/Patient-Resources/Disorders/Lumbar-Radiculopathy.aspx. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Lumbar radiculopathy. Spine Health website. Available at: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lumbar-radiculopathy. Updated April 25, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Lumbar spinal stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 8, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Physical therapist's guide to low back pain. Move Forward—American Physical Therapy Association website. Available at: http://www.moveforwardpt.com/SymptomsConditionsDetail.aspx?cid=d0456c65-7906-4453-b334-d9780612bdd3#.Vfl8WZcTDOt. Updated June 2, 2015. Accessed September 16, 2015.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.