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Lumbar Radiculopathy

What is lumbar radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is a spinal nerve root condition caused by nerve compression, inflammation, or injury that can trigger back and leg pain. Radiculopathy can occur at any point along the spine from the neck along the middle back to the lower spine. When this injury is located in the lower part of the spine, it is called lumbar radiculopathy.

What is the difference between lumbar radiculopathy and sciatica?

“Lumbar radiculopathy” and “sciatica” are terms that are often used interchangeably to describe the compression or inflammation of a spinal nerve in the lower back.

What causes lumbar radiculopathy?

Lumbar radiculopathy can have several different causes. They include:

What are the symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy?

When there is pressure or compression of spinal nerves, over time the increased pressure can damage the nerve and irritate or damage peripheral nerves beyond the spinal chord. Symptoms accompanying a pinched spinal nerve include the following:

How is lumbar radiculopathy diagnosed?

To diagnose lumbar radiculopathy, your physician will review your health history and perform a physical examination. Your doctor may also recommend diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or MRI, to assist in diagnosis.

How is lumbar radiculopathy treated nonsurgically?

Summit Orthopedics is home to the area’s top spine specialists for lumbar radiculopathy treatment. When lumbar radiculopathy is diagnosed, conservative, nonsurgical treatment is usually the first step. Ninety percent of people with lumbar radiculopathy recover without needing surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

What are the surgical treatment options for lumbar radiculopathy?

If there is no improvement after approximately six weeks, surgery to decompress the nerve may be considered. In rare cases when a patient is experiencing severe leg pain and progressive muscle weakness, surgery may be considered sooner.

Common surgical options to relieve lumbar radiculopathy include:


The most common surgery for herniated discs is called a “microdiscectomy.” In this surgery, a one- to two-inch incision is made in your spine on the side of the herniation. The surgeon then finds the herniation and removes the herniated piece. The surgery usually lasts about one to two hours.


The goal of laminectomy is to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerves that is causing your symptoms.

How laminectomy works

Spinal fusion surgery

Spinal fusion is a rare treatment for radiculopathy. It is used to treat spinal segments that are unstable or collapsed.

During this surgery, a vertebral bone is attached, or “fused,” to an adjacent vertebral bone so that they grow together into one long bone. A fusion will reduce freedom of movement in the spine by making the fused vertebral bones immobile, but that immobility stops the spinal instability that was causing the pain.

How spine fusion works:

More resources on fusion surgery:

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Summit Orthopedics’ Spine Care program is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance for the comprehensive expertise of our patient-centered care. Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968-5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MNVadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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