This means ‘disease of the nerve root’ which is often caused by pressure on the nerve as it leaves the spine. There are, however, medical conditions which can cause this. It is a symptom and does not describe the underlying problem.
The pressure is usually caused by a slipped disc or other degenerative changes of the bones close to the nerve (i.e. facet joints). In the leg, this is also called 'sciatica', in the arm 'brachialgia'. It can also be caused by infection or tumours. Radiculopathy can affect any nerve leaving the spine (neck, thoracic spine and lower back) but is most common in the lower neck and lower back. It is rare in the thoracic spine but can feel similar to pain originating in other organs like the heart (angina), kidneys (kidney stones) or gallbladder (gallstones). However, the pain is often sharp and shooting or like an electric shock. In the chest it feels like a band around one or sometimes both sides along a rib. If there has been nerve damage due to the pressure it can feel like a burning pain.
Pressure on a nerve can cause three different symptoms:
- Pins and needles or numbness in the area of skin and weakness of the muscles supplied by the nerve. In most cases it starts with pain followed by pins and needles.
- Weakness can also be due to pain itself in which case it is often more widespread and not just limited to the muscles supplied by the nerve.