Nerve Root Pain

Nerve root pain is a common condition treated by physiotherapists. Also known as radiculitis , radiculopathy or radicular pain, nerve root pain is a complex condition that requires clinical expertise and individualised patient management.

There are 31 pairs of spinal nerve roots that exit the spinal cord through a hole formed between the vertebrae above and the vertebrae below, called the intervertebral foramen.

Nerve root pain in the lower limb is characterized by back pain, buttock pain, leg pain (sciatica) and tingling and numbness that can extend into the foot. In the upper limb pain commonly extends from the neck into the arm with tingling and or numbness which often extends into the hand. Severe cases may result in leg or arm weakness or paralysis.



Posterior disc herniation

The nerve root is subject to injury at the intervertebral foramen as it is a defined space. Degenerative changes such as the formation of osteophytes (bone spurs) cause narrowing of the foramen known as foraminal stenosis, this can compress or irritate the nerve root and cause pain.

Intervertebral disc (IVD) herniation is another common cause of nerve root pain due to compression of the nerve root. Research has shown that nerve root pain does not always result form nerve root compression. Contents of a degenerative IVD can seap onto the nerve root and cause nerve root damage and result in nerve root pain and altered function.

Treatment consists medication such as analgesics and anti-inflammatories, rest and avoidance of aggravating activities. Spinal traction has been shown clinically to be an effective form of treatment for nerve root pain. Manual therapy, taping, postural retraining, nerve stretches and muscle strengthening may be used by your physiotherapist to return you to good health.

In extreme cases nerve root injections may be used. Surgery is considered in those who show progressive muscle weakness or deteriorating signs and symptoms. These signs will be carefully monitored by your physiotherapist.

All Physica staff receive extra training in the assessment and management of nerve root pain. We will identify the driving factors of your problem and devise a structured individualised program to return you to optimum health.

Download a back pain brochure- click here