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Radiculopathy is a condition in which a nerve is compressed or “pinched” at the nerve root where a nerve exits the spinal column. A pinched nerve root typically leads to numbness, weakness, pain, or tingling. Because nerves carry sensory information from the body to the central nervous system, patients with radiculopathy often experience pain that radiates to the limbs. The location of radiating pain depends on where the compression occurs along the spine — cervical, thoracic, and lumbar radiculopathy can involve pain in the arms, torso, and lower body respectively.

Common Causes

Even though pain or discomfort has a clear cause in this condition, radiculopathy itself can be caused by a variety of different conditions:

In addition, several factors are known to increase the risk of developing this condition:


In general, nonsurgical treatments are the preferred approach for radiculopathy. NSAIDs and muscle relaxants may be used to reduce pain and inflammation. Improving back muscle strength and flexibility is also an important component of treating radiculopathy — e.g. range of motion exercises and balance training. Spinal traction can help relieve pressure on the nerve root, and using braces or orthotics can address any underlying posture issues. For some patients, surgery is needed to widen the space around the nerve root.