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Lumbar Radiculopathy


Lumbar radiculopathy is a painful condition that happens when a nerve in your lumbar spine (lower back) is pinched or irritated. Nerves control feeling and movement in your body. You may have numbness or pain that shoots down from your lower back towards your foot.



  • Medicines:
    • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
    • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
    • Opioids: This is a strong medicine given to reduce severe pain. It is also called narcotic pain medicine. Take this medicine exactly as directed by your healthcare provider.
    • Oral steroids: Steroids may also be given to reduce pain and swelling.
    • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider or spine specialist within 1 to 3 weeks:

After your first follow-up appointment, return to your healthcare provider or spine specialist every 2 weeks until you have healed. Ask for information about physical therapy for your condition. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Physical therapy:

You may need physical therapy to improve your condition. Your physical therapist may teach you certain exercises to improve posture (the way you stand and sit), flexibility, and strength in your lower back.

Self care:

  • Stay active: It is best to be active when you have lumbar radiculopathy. Your physical therapist or healthcare provider may tell you to take walks to ease yourself back into your daily routine. Avoid long periods of bed rest. Bed rest could worsen your symptoms. Do not move in ways that increase your pain. Ask for more information about the best ways to stay active.
  • Use ice or heat packs: Use ice or heat packs as directed on the sore area of your body to decrease the pain and swelling. Put ice in a plastic bag covered with a towel on your low back. Cover heated items with a towel to avoid burns. Use ice and heat as directed.
  • Avoid heavy lifting: Your condition may worsen if you lift heavy things. Avoid lifting if possible.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess body weight may strain your back. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to lose excess weight if you are overweight.

Contact your healthcare provider or spine specialist if:

  • Your pain does not improve within 1 to 3 weeks after treatment.
  • Your pain and weakness keep you from your normal activities at work, home, or school.
  • You lose more than 10 pounds in 6 months without trying.
  • You become depressed or sad because of the pain.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a fever greater than 100.4°F for longer than 2 days.
  • You have new, severe back or leg pain, or your pain spreads to both legs.
  • You have any new signs of numbness or weakness, especially in your lower back, legs, arms, or genital area.
  • You have new trouble controlling your urine and bowel movements.
  • You do not feel like your bladder empties when you urinate.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Lumbar Radiculopathy (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.