Your spine is made of various bones which are called vertebrae, and your spinal cord regulates through a canal in the middle of these bones. Nerve roots get divided from the cord and travel between the vertebrae into many different areas of your body. When these nerve roots become damaged, the executing symptoms are called radiculopathy.
Causes of Radiculopathy
Typically radiculopathy is caused by changes in the tissues that are surrounding the nerve roots. These tissues include bones of the spinal vertebrae, tendons and intervertebral discs.
When these tissues shift or change in size, they can narrow the spaces where the nerve roots travel inside the spine or exit the spine these openings are called foramina.
Foraminal stenosis is a process in which foramina gets narrowed, which is very similar to spinal stenosis that affects the spinal cord.
In most of the cases, foraminal stenosis is caused by gradual degeneration of the spine that happens as you grow older. But it can also be a result of a spinal injury.
One of the most common causes of foraminal stenosis and radiculopathy is a bulging or herniated disc. Spinal discs act as cushions between your vertebrae. On occasion, these discs slip out of place or become damaged and press on nerves. This problem is most likely to occur in your lower back, but it can also affect your neck.
Another possible cause of radiculopathy that can lead to narrowing of foramina is bone spurs — areas of extra bone growth. Bone spurs can be easily formed in the spine because of inflammation from osteoarthritis, trauma or other degenerative conditions.
Thickening (ossification) of the spinal ligaments can lead to narrowing of the space around the nerve roots and subsequent nerve compression. Some of the less common causes of radiculopathy involve spinal infections and many cancerous and noncancerous growths in the spine that may press against the nerve roots.
Symptoms of Radiculopathy
When a nerve root is shrinked, it gets inflamed. This further executes in many unpleasant symptoms that may involve:
- Pain in the back, arms, legs or shoulders that can worsen with specific activities, even something as simple as coughing or sneezing
- Weakness or loss of reflexes in the arms or legs
- Numbness of the skin, “pins and needles,” or other abnormal sensations (paresthesia) in the arms or legs
Certain symptoms will depend on where in the spine the nerve root is damaged. Although, it’s also possible that you don’t experience any symptoms or you may go through periodic flare-ups of symptoms.