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Lumbar Radiculopathy

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Lumbar Radiculopathy


Lumbar radiculopathy is when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are pinched or damaged. This can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back to the feet.

Area Affected By Lumbar Radiculopathy.

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It is caused by problems that cause swelling or pinching of a spinal nerve, such as:

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Birth defects in the spine
  • Hard physical activities, such as heavy lifting
  • Being overweight
  • Injuries
  • Prior spinal surgery


Problems may be:

  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Muscle spasms


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the lower spine.

Electromyography (EMG) may be done to check the electrical activity of the muscles.

Images may be taken of the spine. This can be done with:


Most people feel better when the cause of the symptoms improves. Others may need to manage symptoms. Options are:


This problem cannot always be prevented. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight may help lower the risk.

Without Surgery

Corsets and back braces can be used to support the spine and ease pain. Traction may also be used to pull spinal discs apart to ease pressure around pinched nerves.


Medicines used to treat this problem are:

  • Over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Prescription pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Corticosteroid injections into the spine to ease swelling

Physical Therapy

Some activities may need to be limited if they cause pain. Physical therapy can help improve balance, strength, and range of motion during this time.


Some people may need surgery when other methods do not help. The goal of surgery is to ease pain and pressure on the pinched nerve. This may be done with:

  • Laminectomy to take out a part of the bony arch of the spine through open surgery
  • Microdiscectomy to take out a part of the herniated disc using instruments or a laser




  • Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/chronic-low-back-pain.
  • Lumbar disk herniation. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-disk-herniation.
  • Lumbar radiculopathy. American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine website. Available at: https://www.aanem.org/Patients/Muscle-and-Nerve-Disorders/Lumbar-Radiculopathy.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/lumbar-spinal-stenosis.
  • Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, et al. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Apr 4;166(7):514-530.


  • Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.