Physiotherapy For Painful Radiculopathies
Have you ever had a pinched nerve? If you have experienced it, you know how uncomfortable the symptoms can be. A pinched nerve causes soreness and shooting pain. Many patients find it overwhelming when diagnosed with radiculopathy; managing its symptoms can be an uphill task.
Radiculopathy is the compression and irritation of the nerve roots located in the spinal cord.
A patient may have thoracic, cervical, or lumbar radiculopathy. After diagnosis, healthcare providers deal with the symptoms in different ways, among them being physical therapy. At Movement 101 Chatswood, we help you return to your healthy and pain-free life.
In this guide you get the chance to learn how physiotherapy can help deal with radiculopathy.
Cause of Radiculopathies
Radiculopathies come from changes in the tissues surrounding nerve roots in the spinal cord. They can be caused by compression, injury, or nerve root inflammation. The affected person could suffer from herniated spinal discs, ossification of spinal ligaments, bone spurs, trauma, and aging, in which the bones degenerate. In most cases, radiculopathy occurs in the lower back or the neck.
Diagnosis and Symptoms of Radiculopathy
Doctors usually begin with a general physical diagnosis; then, they carry out the x-ray to help them review the alignment of the patient’s bones. They could also carry out an MRI to help them scan areas of the patients’ back. Patients may experience different symptoms depending on the type of radiculopathy a they suffer from. They affect areas of the back, neck, shoulders, or arms.
This kind begins from the neck and move downwards. Many patients have had the following symptoms:
- Pain when extending the neck or straining
- Loss of sensation or numbness in the fingers or hands.
- A burning or sharp pain spreads through the neck, chest, arm, and upper back.
Sciatica or Lumbar Radiculopathy Symptoms
These are the symptoms that occur in the leg and foot region. With physical therapy, the sciatica nerve can get healed. They include:
- Pain when coughing or sitting
- Tingling and numbness in the legs and back
- Sharp pain that starts in the back and shoots down to the foot
- Weakness in the legs or buttocks
- When it is extreme, the patient may have coordination problems, paralysis, and trouble walking.
Thoracic Radiculopathy Symptoms
It is a rare form of radiculopathy in the upper or mid-back region. The symptoms include:
- Band-like chest pain
- Stiffness in the leg or muscle weakness
- Burning or shooting pain in the ribs, middle back, or abdomen
- Pain or tingling radiating from the middle then moves back to the chest
If you dont get treatment, radiculopathy causes so much pain and weaknes such that it becomes difficult for the affected persons to continue with their day-to-day life. The kind of treatment you get depends on the affected location and the cause among other factors. The most recommended option is non surgical treatment as described below.
Nonsurgical treatments options like excercise, patient education, and manual therapy are among the most straight forward treatment options according to the health guidelines. They are non invasive, and they do not affect your daily activities.
Below is a list of nonsurgical treatment options.
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Ultrasound and infrared treatment
- Immobilization of the affected area and rest
Physical Therapy for Radiculopathy
Radiculopathy physical therapy is about strengthening the core and back muscles of the patient to support their spine better. Patients who are sufferring from radiculopathy symptoms and do not want to go for surgery can try physical therapy as it is a great option. It is advisable to avoid surgery unless it is the only option you. Many patients report complete alleviation of symptoms without surgery and with little to no medication after choosing radiculopathy physical therapy.
The Best Radiculopathy Exercises In Physical Therapy
Studies show that patients practicing chest and neck exercises twice weekly reduce pain and increase muscle strength. These exercises help in the prevention of injuries from recurring.
Levator Stretch – If the levator scapulae muscle is loose and relaxed, the levator stretches help reduce and eliminate the pain resulting from cervical radiculopathy.
Trap Stretches – The stretches loosen the trapezius muscles in the back of the neck. When these muscles get tight, they compress the nerves and spine. Stretching these muscles allows the loosening of muscles, and the trapped nerves are released.
Thoracic Spine Thrusts – The spine thrusts create a long and short-term effect that will help relieve the pain. They are among the most used cervical radiculopathy physical therapy exercises.
Sometimes, a patient may need surgical treatment, especially when the nonsurgical methods are not enough to completely deal with the issue. Common surgeries can help, including; disc replacement surgery, spinal decompression surgery, foraminotomy, and spinal fusion.