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Differential Diagnosis of Radicular Pain.

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

What is Radicular pain?

The human spinal cord is made up of vertebrae (a collection of many bones), and it runs through a canal in the middle of these bones.

The Nerve roots separate from the spinal cord and travel between the vertebrae into different parts of the body, but due to the shifting and changing of the size of these nerve roots, the foramina (openings from where the nerve roots travel inside the spine or exit the spine), becomes narrow.

And as a result, the nerve roots because of inflammation and compression become damaged or pinched and this all leads to pain in the buttock area, leg, below the knees, hips, spine, and weak muscles, etc.

Radicular pain is nowadays a common problem in almost everyone, in India alone, and is often misunderstood as frozen shoulder pain (for upper extremity), or knee pain (for lower extremity). It is one of the common reasons behind people visiting physiotherapists or general physician clinics.

What are the Causes of Radicular pain?

A variety of factors causes radicular pain, also known as Radiculopathy and some of the causes are below :

Bone Spurs - Bone spurs are tiny bony growths that develop in the bone's joints, wherever the cartilage has become thin, or maybe the damage can be caused because of osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. And all of these lead to nerve inflammation and pain in the neck and the lower back area.

Spondylolisthesis - Many times the vertebrae fall off from their place and slip into the vertebrae below it.

This puts pressure on the nerves and it becomes inflamed and leading to neck and back pain.

Disc Herniation - To support the Spine, there are discs in it, and sometimes due to wear and tear it gets displaced and puts pressure on the nerve which as a result becomes inflamed and causes pain.

Spondylosis - It is an arthritic condition that is caused by conditions like stiff ligaments, dehydrated discs, bone spurs, etc, and produces spurs that directly affect the spinal cord and cause pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Radicular Pain?

The signs and symptoms of Radicular Pain include -

  • Pain in the arms, shoulders, legs, spine, knee, and back.

  • The pain can trigger while doing certain activities, and even just by coughing and sneezing.

  • Weakness in areas like arms, knees, and legs and also a feeling of loss of reflexes.

  • Numbness in the skin, no feeling of pain or anything.

What are the Risk Factors of Radicular Pain?

These factors can increase the chances of getting diagnosed with Radicular Pain -

  1. Smoking often.

  2. Obesity or heaviness.

  3. Slouching or poor posture while walking, sitting, or doing certain activities.

  4. Wearing heels often.

  5. Driving a lot. Because driving requires constant sitting with less movement.

  6. Mental stress or physically poor lifestyle. Etc.

Screening and Diagnosis of Radicular Pain -

Nerve Damage is not visible to the naked eye. So diagnosing and treating it is not at all easy.

The treatment steps involve these as follow -

Physical Tests and Examining- A doctor will perform certain tests and exams to check muscle strength and reflexes of your body by making you move in different directions. This will help to identify where the pain is and the underlying cause for it.

Imaging Tests - Tests like X-Ray, MRI, CT Scan, Electromyography, etc. Helps to understand the structure of the problem area and form a detailed view of the anatomy. It directly pinpoints the underlying issue.

Based on your condition, the doctor may advise you on surgical treatments options like (Discectomy, Laminectomy, Laser Debridement, and Facet Thermal Ablation) Or Non-Surgical Treatment such as medications like pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy, and Traction.

Some Home Remedies to deal with Radicular Pain -

After the proper treatment, the doctor may advise you with home remedies to reduce the effect of Radicular Pain and these include -

  1. Active Bed Rest - This means, you are on bed rest but performing exercises and doing activities on the bed to keep yourself active.

  2. Limit Alcohol and Smoking - Alcohol and Smoking can increase the chances and risk of many diseases. It can further worsen the pain condition in your body.

So try avoiding it completely.

  1. Avoid Movements - Avoid movements and twisting of certain body parts which can aggravate the pain.

  2. Maintain Pain-Free Posture - Maintaining a pain-free posture is important so that no pressure is put up on the affected area which can aggravate the pain further.

It is advised that whenever you feel pain in any area of the body part, it is recommended to go and see a doctor as it plays an active role in life to avoid complications like these.

Physiotherapists at fit o fine use cutting-edge advanced practices that include but are not limited to the use of massages, movements, and exercises. Make an appointment with us so that one of our therapists can discuss the best treatment option for you.

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