Radicular pain is a type of pain that radiates into the lower limb which directly follows the course (dermatome) of a spinal nerve root.
Signs and Symptoms
Radiculopathy (sciatica) is the most common form of radicular pain. Radiculopathy refers to pain that travels along the sciatic nerve down the back of the thigh and sometimes into the calf and foot. This type of pain and function may feel like shooting or burning pain, numbness or lack of sensation, and/or weakness or heaviness of the affected area.
• Hypoesthesia involves sensory dysfunction typified by a loss of or reduction in sensation, eg temperature, mechanical or vibration stimuli. For those with reduced sensation, there are varying sensitivity to physical feeling and pain. Certain types of stimuli may be able to be experienced but still be completely insensitive to other types, eg some people may feel coldness but not warmth.
• Paraesthesia can be a symptom of traumatic nerve damage and refers to a burning, prickling, skin crawling or itching sensation that is usually felt in the hands, arms, legs, or feet. The sensation happens without warning and may occur alongside numbness or loss of feeling eg spinal cord injuries.
• Motor loss is another term for muscle function loss and describes when a muscle doesn't work or move normally. A complete loss of muscle function is paralysis.
Radicular pain can be caused by injury or irritation to a spinal nerve root through conditions such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis for example. Arm or leg pain may also be accompanied by numbness and tingling, muscle weakness and loss of reflexes.
Radicular pain may be effectively treated conservatively without surgery, with physical therapy, medications and spinal procedures. If these measures fail, or symptoms worsen, then surgery, such as a laminectomy or discectomy, may alleviate radicular pain
Treatment and management
Medical management and physical therapy are two forms of treatment that are used for this condition. Educational sessions are extremely important so that the patient gains an explanation of the condition as well as the role and goals of pain relief medication. Physical therapy can include a range of methods such as mild stretching, muscle conditioning exercises which require practising and passive hands on therapy may also be used although there is less evidence for these interventions working.