Radicular Pain

What Is Radicular Pain?

Uncover the underlying causes of radicular pain and explore a comprehensive range of treatment options at J. Flowers Health Institute’s specialized center.

Table of Contents

What Does Radicular Pain Feel Like?

Are you struggling with pain in the back, neck, hips, or legs and wondering what the cause could be? Radicular pain may be the answer.

Radicular pain affects the nerves in the back or neck area. It travels up the spinal nerve root and can be felt throughout the hips, legs, and spine. It’s a relatively common condition that can affect 3-5% of people in their lifetime.1
Radicular symptoms include tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. The pain experienced can range from a dull aching that’s difficult to localize, to a sharp, burning sensation.

Importance of Seeking Treatment

Getting the appropriate treatment is necessary to help you heal from radicular pain. A slight ache or dull pain can worsen over time if the same activities or conditions continue to exacerbate it.
Early treatment means you can prevent further health complications that involve longer recovery times in the future.

Getting the Help You Need at J. Flowers Health Institute

At J. Flowers Health Institute, we offer treatment services for diagnosed and undiagnosed complex medical conditions. Whether you’re struggling with musculoskeletal pain, radicular pain, or any other conditions, we have knowledgeable professionals available who can help.

We’ll take you through a full diagnostic process to determine the type of pain, its cause, and the right treatment methods for your specific needs.

How is Radicular Pain Linked to Radicular Syndrome?

People with radicular pain will often have a back pain differential diagnosis of radicular syndrome, which is radicular pain caused by irritated or compressed nerves. Radicular symptoms may manifest due to a herniated disc or degenerative changes in the spine.

Nerve roots are branches of the spinal cord that carry nerve signals to the rest of the body. Herniated discs, compressed nerves, and other factors can irritate the nerve roots due to bone spurs or nerve root tunnels collapsing, a condition referred to as foramen.
While motor symptoms may occur, sensory symptoms are more commonly associated with the condition. If muscle weakness is experienced, it is often due to severe compression.

Radicular Pain vs. Radiculopathy: What’s the Difference?

When considering radicular pain vs. radiculopathy, it’s important to note that radiculopathy is a type of radicular pain. Radicular pain is caused by an inflamed root or compressed nerve root.

For instance, an inflamed root in the neck may cause pain to radiate throughout the hand and arm. This type of pain is often associated with cervical pain patterns.

What is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy, on the other hand, occurs when the inflamed or compressed nerve leads to neurological issues that may affect reflexes and result in numbness or weakness.
For example, sciatica is a common type of radiculopathy characterized by pain radiating from the lower back down the leg. It’s characterized as a deep, steady pain that may worsen when certain activities are performed.

Radicular pain and radiculopathy can occur independently or at the same time. Medical professionals tend to use the terms interchangeably. While they do have their differences, treatment methods tend to be the same.

Radicular Pain, Referred Pain, and Radiculopathy

Types of Radicular Pain

There are various types of radicular pain that may occur. These types include the following:

Lumbar Radicular Pain

Lumbar radicular pain is the most common type of radicular pain. Approximately 63-72% of patients who struggle with radicular issues state that the pain is in the lumbar region of the back.1

The lumbar area consists of the vertebrae labeled one through five situated between the chest and the sacrum. The condition tends to manifest as pain, numbness, and weakness in the buttock and leg. It’s often caused by spinal nerve root compression.

Thoracic Radicular Pain

Thoracic radicular pain is the least common type of radicular pain. It’s caused by a compressed or pinched nerve root in any location along the spine’s thoracic area. The pain gets felt in the upper part of the spine, and it can wrap around the front of the body.
Thoracic radicular pain can cause weakness, tingling, and numbness. It may be brought on by:
  • Stenosis
  • Bone spurs
  • Disc herniation
  • Other conditions

Cervical Radicular Pain

Cervical radicular pain patterns occur due to a pinched nerve in the neck that becomes compressed or irritated, where it branches off from the spine. The pain radiates throughout the shoulder and arm area.
It is often caused by wear and tear as well as the changes that occur in the spine as we age. Older people may experience it as a symptom of arthritis. In younger people, it may come on due to a herniated disc.

Causes of Radicular Pain

A variety of factors can cause radicular pain. Below are some that may be at the root of the condition.

Compressive or Inflammatory Condition

A compressive or inflammatory condition can put pressure on the spine’s nerves, causing radiculopathy. Compressive causes of nerve root pain can be the hardest to diagnose, as they’re often caused by herniated disks.
It’s essential to have a diagnostic process that uses a combination of MRI scans and a physical examination to find the root cause.

Bone Spurs

Bone spurs are small bony growths that can develop in the bone’s joints where the cartilage has worn thin. They can cause pain that radiates throughout the neck and lower back. Bone spurs are most often caused by joint damage due to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.2


Spondylosis is a degenerative arthritic condition that affects the spine and can produce bone spurs that cause radicular symptoms.
It can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:
  • Dehydrated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Herniated discs
  • Stiff ligaments

Disc Herniation

Disc herniation occurs when a disc in the spine becomes displaced. It’s often due to wear and tear that results in degeneration. The positioning of the disc can put pressure on the nerve causing it to become irritated.


This condition occurs when the vertebrae slip out of place and fall on the vertebra below it, putting pressure on the nerves and leading to back and neck pain. It’s often caused by an injury but can also be the manifestation of a birth defect.

What is Spondylosthesis?

Predisposing Factors to Radicular Pain

There are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of something developing radicular pain symptoms. These include:

Smoking or Drug Use

It’s unknown how smoking is linked to radiculopathy. However, studies have shown that stopping smoking can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of developing radicular pain.3
In addition to smoking, substances like prescription opioids, which are often used to treat pain, can also cause it or increase existing pain when experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Substance Use

There can often be a connection between untreated pain symptoms and using substances to try to self-medicate. About 10% of people who struggle with chronic pain also suffer from an opioid use disorder.4

These connections to pain and substances are why dual-diagnosis treatment is so important. At J. Flower’s Health Institute, we not only have the resources to treat pain, but we can also diagnose and treat any co-occurring substance use disorders.

Our team of treatment professionals is trained to treat a variety of conditions simultaneously to get you the best results.

Obesity or Sedentary Lifestyles

Obesity puts pressure on the back, making discs and vertebrae more likely to herniate and become displaced, causing radicular pain. Studies have found that obese patients tend to have about a 15% greater risk of developing back pain at some point in their lifetime.5
In addition to obesity, associated sedentary lifestyles can also have a significant risk of developing low back pain or radicular issues. One study found an 80% likelihood that long daily sitting times can lead to low-back pain.6

When someone sits at a desk for long periods of time with little intentional physical exercise, it creates postural support problems, such as a forward lean in the shoulders. Over time, this can lead to many issues with radicular pain.

Driving Often

A study conducted in May 2015 showed that people who drive frequently are at higher risk of developing radiculopathy than people that don’t drive as often.
This is due to the whole-body vibrations one experiences when driving a car. It’s more likely to occur in people who drive for a living.7


Stress induces the body to release cortisol and other hormones that can cause irritations and misalignments, leading to pinched nerves.

Additionally, the mental symptoms of stress can cause or worsen symptoms of chronic pain. This is due to the fact that blood flow going to adrenal glands during times of stress affects the functions of the hippocampus and amygdala.

Over time, chronic levels of stress can contribute to learned memory in these regions, increasing symptoms from mental health conditions and even physical pain factors.8

Mental Illness

Studies have also found that 35% of people who suffer from chronic pain also have a diagnosable mental health condition that contributes to it.9

The link between mental health and pain is once again why dual diagnosis treatment is necessary. We have resources that can help with both mental health and pain treatment at J. Flowers Health Institute.


As mentioned earlier, injuries like herniated disks can be a common cause of radicular issues.

Additionally, bad falls or traumatic car accidents can lead to numerous forms of chronic pain, including radicular problems. Bone spurs growing on the vertebrae can also be a common issue.

If you’re struggling with low-back or neck pain, it’s important to get a full medical evaluation. It may be due to radicular functions or numerous other issues that can cause distress when they go untreated. Our team at J. Flowers Health Institute is here to get you on the right track.

Signs and Symptoms of Radicular Pain

Radicular pain symptoms will vary depending on each person’s condition. Here are common examples of radicular pain symptoms:

Cervical Symptoms

Cervical radicular pain occurs in the neck area in the nerves that branch out from the spine. It will produce severe pain in the upper part of the body.
Cervical radicular symptoms include:
  • Neck Pain: The irritated nerve is located in the neck area, so this area is more likely to feel pain during neck movement or when keeping still. 
  • Pain That Radiates to the Arms and Hands: The nerves in the neck travel down to the arms and hands, so it’s not unusual to feel pain in these areas. 
  • Numbness in the Shoulders, Arms, Hands, and Fingers: Nerve pain is often linked to numbness in the affected area as well. 
  • Muscular Weakness: Muscular weakness is a common symptom of motor nerve damage.
  • Pain That Radiates to the Shoulders and Chest: Even though the pain occurs in the neck area, it can also radiate to the shoulders and chest.

Thoracic Symptoms

Thoracic radicular pain occurs in the upper part of the spine, so symptoms are more likely to be felt in the top part of the torso.

One may experience the following types of discomfort:

  • Chest Pain: Although the source of pain may be in the back, it is not uncommon to radiate out into the chest. 
  • Numbness or Tingling Sensations: Severe nerve pain is often associated with feelings of numbness and tingling. 
  • Tight Feeling in the Chest: The pain in the chest can cause tightness that may feel as if someone is dealing with cardiac arrest.
  • Pain That Radiates to the Abdomen: Severe nerve pain may get into unlikely areas, such as the abdomen.

Lumbar Symptoms

Lumbar radicular pain occurs in the lower part of the back. Here are some of the radicular pain symptoms one may experience with this condition:
  • Lower Back Pain: Since pinched nerves and irritation are typically situated in the lower back, people will likely feel lumbar radicular pain.
  • Pain the Radiates to the Legs and Feet: It’s not unusual to experience radicular leg pain along with lumbar symptoms. If someone has radiculopathy, the pain may radiate all the way to the feet. 
  • Numbness in Legs: Nerve damage often causes numbness that may be felt in the legs and lower back area. 
  • Muscular Weakness: Radicular nerve pain can result in muscular weakness, which can be experienced in any of the affected areas.
  • Burning Pain in Hips: Radicular symptoms of lumbar radicular pain may include a burning sensation in the hips and lower back.
A doctor will provide a back pain differential diagnosis to let the patient know what type of radicular pain they have.

Lumbar Pain vs. Referred Pain

Screening and Diagnosis of Radicular Syndrome

Radicular syndrome is not easy to diagnose. After all, nerve damage is not visible to the human eye. Therefore, a combination of processes is integrated, such as:

Physical Exams and Physical Tests

A doctor may perform physical exams and tests to check muscle strength and reflexes. For example, if a patient experiences pain when moving a certain way, this will help identify the affected nerve root.

Imaging Tests

There are a variety of imaging tests that allow doctors to see the structure of the problem area. These include:
  • X-Rays: X-rays are types of radiation that create pictures of the inside of the body.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and computer-generated radio waves to form pictures of the anatomy.
  • CT Scan: Computerized tomography, or CT scan, combines X-ray images taken from different angles around the body and uses a computer to form a detailed view of the anatomy.
  • Electromyography: Electromyography measures the body’s muscle response or electrical activity when nerves are stimulated. It’s often combined with nerve conduction studies to pinpoint the issue.10

Treatment Options for Radicular Pain

Radicular pain is not easy to deal with, but fortunately, various treatments are available. These include surgical and non-surgical remedies, such as:

Non-Surgical Treatment

Non-surgical treatment options can involve a variety of options depending on the primary source of the pain.

Dual Diagnosis Pain Treatment

As you can see from the different causes of radicular pain, it isn’t always the pain on the surface that’s causing the biggest issue. There could be several other underlying problems that could be the culprit.
If you’re struggling with chronic radicular pain due to causes like mental health, stress, substance use disorder, or lifestyle factors, there are several non-surgical options available that can help.
Our team of trained medical professionals at J. Flowers Health Institute can assist you every step of the way while working toward an effective solution. Our comprehensive tests will look into every aspect that may be causing your pain to get you the treatment for the root cause of your symptoms.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at J. Flowers Health Institute

Upon beginning treatment with us, we’ll take you through the comprehensive diagnostic process we call our “Living MRI.”
This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Medical evaluation
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Substance use disorder testing
  • Brain mapping
  • Comprehensive report and action plan
  • Chronic pain evaluation
  • Trauma assessments
Our goal is to find holistic and non-invasive solutions whenever possible to get you long-lasting results and a better sense of well-being.


At times when physical causes of the pain are the culprit, there are other medical solutions available, such as prescription medications. Prescription medication can sometimes be a useful tool while working toward a more permanent solution for ongoing pain.

Pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatory medications can be used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with radicular pain patterns. Steroid and oral injections can also be helpful.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is another method used to relieve radicular pain symptoms. A physical therapist teaches patients certain exercises that target the root of the pain, improve strength, and may even serve as a surgery alternative.
Physical therapists often teach exercises that can be done during the sessions and also include exercises that can be done at home.
Physical therapy is an excellent option for those who have lifestyle factors like poor posture from sitting at a desk or physical injuries that are causing pain.


Traction is a non-surgical medical procedure used to treat various types of radicular pain. It involves wearing or getting into a device that holds the body in place to relieve the pressure on the affected nerve.
The idea is to get the body used to the posture to eliminate radicular low back pain, radicular leg pain, and more.

Surgical Treatment

In times where holistic solutions are not enough, such as serious injuries, there are several surgical options that may be able to help. Our team at J. Flowers Health Institute is able to refer you to the best surgical professionals if this level of treatment is required.


This surgery removes lumbar herniated disc material that’s pressing on the nerve root or spinal cord. It can also be done as a microdiscectomy, a less invasive method that uses a microscope to view the discs and nerves.


A laminectomy removes part or all of the vertebral bone. It eases pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.

Laser Debridement and Facet Thermal Ablation

This minimally-invasive surgical procedure involves lasers that clean facet joints and remove nerves causing radiculopathy.
Radicular Pain

Home Remedies for Radicular Pain

After a doctor makes a back pain differential diagnosis, they may recommend home remedies that can be used on their own or in conjunction with medical treatment to reduce radicular pain symptoms. These include:

  • Restless Bed Rest: This involves staying in bed while performing certain movements to keep the body active. 

  • Avoid Twisting Movements: Any twisting movement that aggravates radicular pain symptoms should be avoided. 

  • Quit Smoking: As stated above, smoking has been shown to be linked to an increased risk of radicular pain. Quitting smoking can decrease the likelihood of developing the condition and improve symptoms. 

  • Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol can also cause people to move in ways that will irritate their nerves, and they may not realize it until after sobering up. It also contributes to weight gain, putting added pressure on the back. 

  • Maintain Pain-Free Posture: It’s important to maintain a posture that does not put pressure on the affected area. Traction may help people achieve the posture they need to heal. 

  • Avoid Lifting or Pushing Heavy Objects: Lifting or pushing heavy objects will make the pain worse.

  • Follow Proper Rest After Injury: If you were injured, the affected area will be sensitive immediately after the injury. To make sure you don’t worsen your condition or exacerbate any existing pain, follow your doctor’s orders regarding bed rest.

How J. Flowers Health Institute Can Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from radicular pain or other forms of chronic pain, our team at J. Flowers Health Institute can help you find the right solutions for your needs. We have extensive experience with many different types of chronic pain issues, including radicular pain. 

Our Treatment Approach

We take a holistic approach that treats the mind, body, and soul. We offer a combination of Western medicine, integrative nutrition, and sports medicine to ensure our clients achieve optimal health. 

We provide comprehensive care that includes diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, and aftercare. Our “Living MRI” can help us figure out how to treat your symptoms holistically and comprehensively. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your radicular pain is lessened. 

Contact J. Flowers Health Institute Today

Do not let radicular pain negatively affect another day of your life. Call J. Flowers Health Institute to get the help you need. We are here to help you enjoy a higher quality of life.