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Chiropractic Care for Radiculopathy

Published Date: 
August 1, 2023
Illustration of activated nerve cell.

Radiculopathy, sometimes called radiculitis, is a condition that causes pain. It’s related to nerve root pain, sciatica, or radicular pain. It’s caused by a pinched nerve, and there are several ways of treating it. One of the most effective natural treatments for radiculopathy is chiropractic care. It’s a hands-on approach that can help you avoid riskier, more invasive treatments. Here’s what you should know.

How Does Radiculopathy Develop?

A pinched spinal nerve causes radiculopathy. It develops when a nerve root becomes irritated or compressed. When this happens, you feel pain, tingling, or numbness in the area. 

Mild cases of radiculopathy can resolve with posture improvements or over-the-counter pain medication if this is your preference. However, for more severe cases or if you prefer a medicine-free option, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment can help.

Types of Radiculopathy

There are three types of radiculopathy, including:

  • Cervical radiculopathy: Pain and discomfort in the neck area that sometimes radiates to your hands and arms.
  • Thoracic radiculopathy: Pain and discomfort in the chest area during inhalation and exhalation.
  • Lumbar radiculopathy: Lower back pain and numbness that sometimes radiates to your legs.

Anything that irritates or compresses the roots of the spinal nerves can cause radiculopathy. The most common triggers include: 

  • Traumas, including car accidents or falls
  • Bone spur growth on one of your vertebrae
  • Herniated disc (also called slipped, bulging, or ruptured discs)

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of radiculopathy might vary depending on the type. However, they usually include some combination of the following:

  • Pain around the affected nerve
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness

The Difference Between Radiculopathy and Neuropathy

Radiculopathy and neuropathy share some similarities but are not the same. 

Older woman suffering from radiculopathy getting off a couch.

Damaged nerves cause both. Both can trigger weakness, numbness, decreased motor skills, and range of motion. 

In reality, radiculopathy is a type of neuropathy. It’s one type of nerve damage.

Determining whether you are affected by neuropathy or, specifically, radiculopathy is important because it affects treatment options and what symptoms you’ll experience. Additionally, if either of these conditions is due to an injury caused by someone else’s negligence, a specific diagnosis affects the compensation you might receive if you pursue legal action. 

Most people see their primary care physician to receive a radiculopathy diagnosis. The diagnostic procedure includes the following:

  • X-ray: This identifies the narrowing and changing of the alignment of your spinal cord. In some cases, it might also show spinal fractures.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This is a 3D image of your spine. It offers more details than a regular X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This shows if damage to soft tissues is causing nerve compression. It also shows damage to the spinal cord.
  • Electromyography (EMG): This measures electrical impulses in the muscles. It helps the doctor determine if a nerve is working properly.

A chiropractor can treat you whether or not you have an official diagnosis of radiculopathy. However, a diagnosis might be needed to pursue insurance coverage. 

There are several treatment options for radiculopathy, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Ice or heat
  • Corticosteroids
  • Over-the-counter NSAID medications
  • Surgery

Although these treatments might correct the problem or mask the symptoms caused by the problems, they all have drawbacks. Some are invasive and come with various potential side effects and risks. Chiropractic treatments can help you avoid these risks.

How a Chiropractor Can Help

Seeking treatment from a chiropractor for radiculopathy is one of the safest and most effective options for treating the condition.

Chiropractor adjusting shoulder of male patient with radiculopathy.

Standard chiropractic treatment adjusts the spine. The adjustment might have many facets, but one of the primary actions induces motion into the spine. 

When someone is dealing with radiculopathy, the chiropractor adjusts the area where the nerves are affected. When this problem with function or motion is corrected, the pain, numbness, tingling, and other symptoms decrease.

Essentially, chiropractic adjustments for radiculopathy move blockages and allow the body to heal naturally. 

During your first appointment, the chiropractor will conduct tests to assess your symptoms. They’ll evaluate your pain and determine the exact location of your pain, as well as whether it’s radiating to other areas of your body. Once this evaluation is complete, they’ll design a customized treatment plan that includes various treatment tools. 

Chiropractic care is a holistic approach to treating radiculopathy. It not only helps your body correct the problem causing radiculopathy, but it also improves your overall health and well-being. In addition to the chiropractic treatment administered by the chiropractor, your treatment plan will include exercises you can do independently, dietary suggestions, and lifestyle recommendations.

During an adjustment, your chiropractor will find the trigger point causing the pain and apply gentle pressure or thrusting to that area. The goal is to realign the spinal nerves. After the treatment, you’ll likely feel relaxed, and there will be relief from the pressure and other symptoms of radiculopathy. Your brain and your nerves will have an open and free flow of communication. Over time, this improves radiculopathy symptoms and any other symptoms you might be experiencing. Although it might take several sessions to resolve the problem completely, many people experience pain relief after their first treatment.

You know how painful it can be if you've dealt with radiculopathy. You know that it interferes with your daily life and affects your quality of life. Finding a gentle, healing treatment is one of the best things you can do to improve your health. And because chiropractic care is holistic, your overall health is enhanced.

Benefits of Treating Radiculopathy with Chiropractic Care

Treating radiculopathy with chiropractic care offers many benefits. For example, chiropractic care is:

  • Natural, safe, and effective
  • Offers tools you can use at home for additional relief and to help you maintain good health
  • Reduces or alleviates symptoms
  • Treats the whole body and can improve other health problems even if they aren’t directly targeted in treatment
  • Reduces reliance on opioid pain relievers
  • Affordable and might be covered by insurance
  • Corrects instead of masks symptoms
  • Offers long-term benefits by addressing the root of the problem

If you’re looking for a safe, natural, effective way to deal with radiculopathy, chiropractic care is an option.

Chiropractor adjusting and massaging wrist of female patient who suffers from Radiculopathy.

Chiropractors deliver adjustments to the spine. The physical action of the adjustment is an induction of motion into the spinal joint. If you’ve never undergone chiropractic care before, you might be intimidated by what it entails or what others have heard or seen. It’s important not to limit your treatment options without understanding the situation and available options to treat radiculopathy. 

Radiculopathy is painful and, if severe enough, can be debilitating and interfere with your quality of life. Even mild cases can interfere with your ability to enjoy everyday pleasures. Working with an experienced chiropractor who can also provide information about additional treatment options and things you can do to heal your body is one of the best ways to manage and heal radiculopathy.

Dr. Eric Neumann D.C.

Dr. Eric Neumann grew up in Alberta, Canada where he majored in Chemistry at the University of Calgary. During his time at University, he obtained licensure as a Massage Therapist. It was clear that hands-on healing would be his calling. After suffering multiple sport-related injuries he became interested in Chiropractic. Dr. Neumann graduated from Western States Chiropractic College in 2009. He has since specialized in the treatment and management of acute spinal injuries.

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