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:
- MRI scan
- CT scan
- Contrast myelography
In most cases, lumbar radiculopathy goes away when the cause of the symptoms improves. If problems persist, symptoms can be managed.
Options include one or more of the following:
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
- Muscle relaxers
- Corticosteroid injections into the spine
If the lumbar radiculopathy is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed.
Continue normal activities unless it causes pain. Staying active helps maintain muscle strength and flexibility.
A physical therapist can advise 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. A therapist can also provide back care education including proper posture and body mechanics.
Counseling will help manage chronic pain through single or group therapy.
If no other treatments work, surgery may be an option. 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 the 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.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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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
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