Compressed Spinal Nerve

Radiculopathy is a medical condition that occurs when a spinal nerve is compressed. Although radiculopathy can affect any portion of the spine, it is more common in the lower back and neck. It may also be referred to a “sciatica” or a pinched nerve.

A herniated disc or degenerative disc can cause radiculopathy. Any spinal problems that compress the nerves can cause this condition.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Radiculopathy can affect your leg, foot, arm or hand. Symptoms typically occur on one side of your body and may include:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness

To diagnose radiculopathy, your doctor will take your medical history and perform a physical exam, checking your reflexes and nerve function. You may also have X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or other advanced imaging modalities such as computed tomography (CT) scans. On occasion, a nerve study or electromyogram (EMG) may be necessary for appropriate diagnosis.

Your treatment may include:

  • Avoiding certain activities
  • Applying heat or cold packs
  • Over-the-counter pain medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Physical therapy
  • Oral steroids
  • Prescription medications (muscle relaxants, nerve pain modulating agents)
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Surgery

Most patients with radiculopathy do not need surgery. The nonsurgical treatments listed above, combined with time, result in resolution of their symptoms and a return to normal activities. If surgery is required, the results are generally favorable and recovery from that surgery ranges from 6 to 12 weeks.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics, including arthritis care and joint arthroplasty (joint replacement surgery).

Designated as a Blue Distinction® Center

Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

Confidence in Treatment Through Education

We developed a special joint replacement education website just for patients undergoing joint arthroplasty. The website takes you step by step through the joint replacement process. From things to consider before choosing surgery to recovery after surgery, you’ll find the information you need to help you feel confident in your decision to undergo joint replacement.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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