Lumbar Radiculopathy a Common – but Irritating – Complaint

Lumbar Radiculopathy

Lumbar radiculopathy affects many individuals of all ages. Better known to the layperson as sciatica, it can be terribly uncomfortable and can really limit our patients’ activity. Some patients describe this radiating pain as the worst they’ve experienced, as a matter of fact, and many say that it persists through walking, sitting, and laying down, making it tough to work, play, or rest. Add to all of this the numbness, weakness, and tingling that those with lumbar radiculopathy often experience and you have a condition that is truly menacing for the patient.

Sciatica is one of the most common types of pain caused by compression of the lower spinal nerve roots, usually L5 and S1. (Compression of L2, 3, and 4 can also happen and pain will appear in the front thigh and possibly the shin.) Many describe this radiating leg pain as excruciating and are eager to find ways to relieve it, especially when solutions such as over-the-counter anti-inflammatories do little to provide relief.

The most common cause of lumbar radiculopathy is herniated disc with nerve compression. Nerve root injuries and diabetes can also cause sciatica and older adults may find that arthritis is the culprit. If your patient has had previous spinal surgery, scar tissue might impinge on the nerve root and cause this radiating pain.

Most sciatica can be diagnosed via a physical examination and a thorough look at the patient’s history. In some cases, when necessary, imaging studies can be ordered (usually MRI) that shows the impingement on the nerve root in question.

All that said, lumbar radiculopathy is not only painful for the patient but also frustrating and frightening. Such pain as that which is caused by sciatica signals something very wrong with the body and that’s scary, especially for those who are experiencing it for the first time. So, how will you put your patient’s mind at ease and calm their anxieties?

You’ll do it by educating them about their condition, just as you should with any condition that’s causing pain or any other kind of distress. You can pull out the imaging studies, if you’ve ordered them, and show the detail on these photos. Chances are the patient will find them interesting but may not understanding the particulars of what they’re viewing. Hence, it’s better to offer something they can see and feel, like the lumbar models from Dynamic Disc Designs (DDD).

These 3-dimensional, fully-movable, highly-detailed spine models are ideal for laypersons who aren’t familiar with the parts and movement of the spine. By using the model for demonstration before you recommend treatments such as physical therapy, medications, spine injections or even decompression surgery, you can literally put the spine in the hands of your patient and show them what’s happening now and what will happen as treatment progresses or is completed.

Models like the Professional LxH have brought understanding to thousands of patients throughout the world. Doctors who use this model – DDD’s most popular – note that patients “see the light” once their able to actually see what makes sciatica happen. With this lightbulb moment comes a willingness to participate in treatment as well as enthusiasm about doing what it takes to get better.

The models I have purchased from Dynamic Disc Designs are the most anatomically accurate and useful spine education models on the market today.  An essential piece for patient education in spine.”
– Prof. Rudolf Bertagnoli, MD (Germany)

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