Numbness or tingling in an arm or leg is a sign to seek help and evaluation from a spine specialist. Referred to as radiculopathy, this numbness or tingling in the extremities is caused when one or more spinal nerve roots are compressed, irritated, or inflamed. Often it is caused from a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or bone spurs. While radiculopathy commonly causes numbness or tingling, it can also cause pain that radiates along the path of the affected nerve and even cause weakness in the affected limb.

Four Symptoms of Radiculopathy:

  1. Pain: People with radiculopathy often describe the pain as a sharp, shooting, or burning pain that travels along the nerve and can radiate from the neck or lower back down the arm or the leg.
  2. Numbness and Tingling: Patients with radiculopathy may experience numbness or tingling sensations in the areas served by the affected nerve – these areas commonly include the arm, hand and fingers or the buttocks, leg, or foot.
  3. Muscle Weakness: Ignoring radiculopathy can lead to muscle weakness in the affected limb. This weakness may interfere with fine motor skills, grip strength, or even the ability to walk, depending on the location and severity of the nerve compression.
  4. Loss of Reflexes: In some cases, reflexes controlled by the affected nerve may be diminished or absent.

The specific symptoms and their severity can vary depending on which nerve root is affected and where along the spinal column the compression or irritation occurs.

  • Compression of nerve roots in the neck region (cervical spine) cause symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands.
  • Compression of nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar spine) can lead to symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet.

Diagnosis of radiculopathy typically involves a medical history assessment, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans to identify the location and cause of nerve compression. Treatment options for radiculopathy may include rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, epidural steroid injections, and in some cases, surgical intervention to relieve pressure on the affected nerve root.

It’s essential for individuals experiencing symptoms of radiculopathy to seek medical evaluation and treatment, as untreated radiculopathy can lead to chronic pain and functional impairment. The specific treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition.

Dr. Jason Alder is a minimally invasive spine specialist at OrthoTexas. He is an expert in diagnosing and treating patients with sensations of numbness and tingling in the extremities. Don’t wait – schedule an appointment today.