18 May 2009 03:32 pm

What is Radiculopathy?

Mmmm, soothing…

Radiator Kitty

Looks like Kittums is feeling no pain… neck or otherwise.


I received a rather lengthy email this week from a reader who asked a number of really good questions about neck pain, his symptoms, and various treatment options. It would take too long to attempt to address them all in a single post so I’ve decided to just focus on one of them this time. I’ll cover the rest in future posts.

Here goes…

Dear Dean

I followed your advice and went to see my doctor today about the pain in my neck and arm. I thought I had sciatica, but he said sciatica was only in the legs and then he called it something different. I should have written it down because we talked about several things after that and now I can’t remember what he said it was.

[Then proceeds with the rest of his questions.]

Guy Who Writes Really Long emails

Hi Guy,

The term you’re searching for is probably radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy is a condition that gets its name from the fact that the symptoms radiate into the extremities along the path of the affected nerve root. For example, cervical radiculopathy is when a pinched nerve in the neck causes pain, numbness and tingling to radiate into the shoulder, down the arm and possibly even into the hand and fingers.

Radiculopathy that starts in the lower back and radiates down through the legs is often referred to as sciatica. It gets its name from the fact that it follows the sciatic nerve, which exits the spine in the lumbar region and travels all the way from there to your toes.

For lack of a better term, I refer to this as a phantom pain because the injury is actually in the neck or back even though it’s felt at some distant location. There is nothing really wrong with your arm or leg.

These strange symptoms are caused by mechanical problems in the spine including (but not limited to) herniated discs, stenosis (narrowing of the spinal column), loss of disc height, bone spurs or a combination of these and other factors.

Pain that Radiates

Don’t feel bad about getting the term wrong. Your doctor is used to it by now.

Besides, it’s quite understandable when you’re hearing a bunch of strange new terms for the first time to start getting them confused. After all, they’re pretty closely related.

Just remember radiculopathy – the pain that radiates.

  • Cervical radiculopathy is in the neck
  • Lumbar radiculopathy (commonly referred to as sciatica) is from the waist down.
  • One Final Thought

    Sometimes a bad radiator can be a pain in the neck…


    Don’t you just hate it when that happens?



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