Causes of Radicular Pain

Causes of Radicular Pain

Learn about the causes of radicular pain and what treatment options are available.

 

Table of Contents

Pain Management

If you’re experiencing pain that seems to radiate down your arm or leg, you may be suffering from radicular pain. This type of pain can be caused by various factors, including a herniated disc, stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. It’s essential to understand the root of your problem and seek treatment accordingly to get relief. Here we will explore some of the most common causes of radicular pain and offer ways to find relief.

What Is Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain is a health condition resulting from irritation in the sensory or dorsal root of a person’s compressed spinal nerve. When this part of the body becomes irritated, the ectopic nerve impulses can be painful. Radicular pain comes from a single nerve root within the human body.1

What Does Radicular Pain Feel Like?

For many people, radicular pain feels like a piercing, burning, or stabbing sensation. These painful sensations can be felt in various areas of the body’s spinal nerves. Radicular pain in the arm and radiating pain in the back can also feel like numbness, tingling, or weakness.2

How Long Can Radicular Pain Last?

Symptoms can be labeled as mild, moderate, or severe radicular pain. In mild cases of radicular pain, the symptoms will usually resolve within approximately six weeks. Suppose an individual still reports radicular complaints after six weeks of moderate activity and over-the-counter pain management. In that case, it is essential to speak with a healthcare provider for further recommendations.3

The Effects of Radicular Pain

Symptoms can be labeled as mild, moderate, or severe radicular pain. In mild cases of radicular pain, the symptoms will usually resolve within approximately six weeks. Suppose an individual still reports radicular complaints after six weeks of moderate activity and over-the-counter pain management. In that case, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare provider for further recommendations.3

What Causes Radicular Pain?

Common causes of radicular pain include a herniated disc, foraminal stenosis, diabetes, nerve root injuries, and scar tissues from spinal surgery. The following sections will explore each of these causes. 

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is one of the leading causes of lumbar radiculopathy. Structural problems, including herniated discs, traumatic events, and bone spurs, can pressure nerve roots resulting in radicular complaints.4

Foraminal Stenosis

A foramen is an opening or hole in a bone within the body, such as the vertebrae. Therefore, foraminal stenosis is narrowing the gaps or spaces between spinal bones. Lumbar foraminal stenosis can lead to radicular pain and inflammation.5

Diabetes

Sometimes confused for diabetic neuropathy, radicular pain in the arm and other body parts is a common complication of diabetes.6

Nerve Root Injuries

Health care providers investigating radicular pain will often use MRI or CT scans to check for nerve root injuries. Compression and damage of the nerve roots can occur at any disc level within the spine. Nerve root disorders or injuries can result from accidents or other health conditions.

Scar Tissue from Spinal Surgery

Radiating pain in the back or radicular pain in the arm can be caused by excessive scar tissue after a spinal procedure.7

What Is Radiculopathy?

radicular pain causes 

Contrary to popular belief, radiculopathy and radicular pain in the arm isn’t the same thing. How do we differentiate between radicular pain vs. radiculopathy? Well, these conditions can occur at the same time, but radiculopathy doesn’t always involve pain. Radicular pain in the arm can be a symptom of radiculopathy or happen alone. In contrast, radiculopathy is described as pain, numbness, and motor loss. Therefore, it’s essential to distinguish between radicular pain and radiculopathy when discussing these conditions.

Risk Factors for Developing Radiculopathy

The following sections will explore the risk factors of radicular pain in the arm and radiculopathy. 

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is directly associated with increases in age. Radicular complaints may be documented in the leg or foot if weakness and compression occur within specific discs.8

Bone Spurs

A bone spur or osteophyte appears to be a bump of extra bone on the end of existing bones. The presence of arthritic bone spurs is a risk factor for developing cervical radiculopathy. This can cause radiating pain in the back.9

Tumors of The Spine

Although rare, a tumor or infection can increase a person’s risk of developing radiculopathy and back pain caused by nerve compression.9

Osteoarthritis or Spinal Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is a medical condition that involves restricted motion and back pain caused by nerve compression. Spinal arthritis and osteoarthritis are known risk factors for radiculopathy.10

Compression Fractures

A vertebrae compression fracture can result in nerve root injury, damaged back pain dermatomes, and an increase in the likelihood of radiculopathy. 

How Do Doctors Treat Radicular Pain?

Radicular pain in the arm, damaged back pain, dermatomes, and nerve pain in both arms can be treated in various ways. The following sections will explore the most common treatment methods for radicular pain in the arm and the disease of a nerve root. 

Physical Therapy to Help Strengthen Muscles or Joints

Studies have shown little difference in results between recommended bed rest and physical therapy individuals. Medical professionals typically only recommend physical therapy for individuals whose symptoms have lasted longer than three weeks. 

Over-The-Counter Medicines, Such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen

Management of radiculopathy arm pain can include conservative medication interventions such as acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, and ibuprofen.

Epidural Injections

Medical providers sometimes target back pain dermatomes with epidural steroid injections for patients diagnosed with acute lumbar radiculopathy. This intervention can be beneficial for up to three months. 

Alternative Therapies, Such as Acupuncture and Yoga

For radicular pain or discomfort in the sciatic nerve in the arm, acupuncture, yoga, and chiropractic care can be helpful treatment approaches. If you’re considering these alternative therapies, consult with your medical provider before starting.11

Scar Tissue from Spinal Surgery

Scar tissue from spinal surgery can increase the chances a person will experience radicular pain. If your doctor believes this issue is causing your radicular pain, they will develop an individualized treatment plan.

Find Treatment for Radicular Pain at J. Flowers Health Institute

Overall health and wellness is so important to maintaining a solid quality of life. We know that with radicular pain, there are negative impacts on both physical and mental health. Pain can interfere with even the most mundane of daily tasks. 


Since radicular syndrome can be challenging to diagnose, it’s critical to partner with a team of knowledgeable experts. At J. Flowers Health Institute, the clinical team utilizes integrated processes to accurately diagnose and treat radicular syndrome. Your health and happiness is our top priority, and we have a team of skilled medical professionals to ensure that you are well taken care of.

Programs at JFHI

To treat radicular pain and radiculopathy, J. Flowers Health provides physical exams, thorough imaging tests, non-surgical interventions, surgical treatment, and guidance surrounding home remedies. To learn more about the radicular pain programs at JFHI, contact our friendly concierge team today. We look forward to hearing from you and being a part of your healing journey.