The spine is comprised of thirty-three bones stacked on top of one another for the sole purpose of protecting the spinal cord. An injured spinal cord is a devastating diagnosis that can leave the patient paralyzed for the rest of their life. This set of bones is one of the most important in the body, and no one wants to suffer from radiculopathy, the medical term for a pinched nerve, which causes serious pain and hinders mobility.
As simple as it sounds, a pinched nerve can cause pain, make an individual feel weak, and it can even cause numbness in many parts of the body. If a patient suffers from a pinched nerve, it is crucial to find a way to treat it.
Activity modification is a simple treatment option for individuals who suffer from radiculopathy. It’s non-surgical, non-invasive, and doesn’t require any medical treatment. This is not a permanent situation. Patients can resume their day-to-day activities once they treat the pinched nerve and it no longer causes intense pain. There is no right or wrong way to modify physical activity when dealing with a pinched nerve, but doctors can recommend the best solutions. For some individuals, it means no more heavy weight lifting.
It might mean no more going to the gym occasionally or taking a yoga class. It may involve not picking up any heavy objects or running any marathons. It’s a personal treatment plan because one person's activity level on a day-to-day basis differs from everyone else. Patients must speak with their doctor about their physical activity and how they live their life to come up with the best modification program to fit their specific lifestyle needs.
Physical therapy is another solution for radiculopathy. A trained physical therapist works closely with patients to treat the affected area. Patients can expect to discuss their pinched nerve and pain issues with a therapist while undergoing a physical exam. Patient medical history is important when dealing with physical therapy, so individuals should be honest about other pain and injuries they may have. The physical therapist will create a treatment program for each patient that works to help with their pinched nerve and pain.
The physical exam and conversation patients have with the therapist help them create the best treatment. This therapy helps patients manage and overcome the pain. Patients can return to their regular lifestyle eventually, but will need to focus on this therapy first. Finding a good physical therapist is the key to success when going through this.
Not all pinched nerves occur in the back. Some of them occur in the area of the spine closer to the neck, which is when cervical traction works as a treatment method. The use of a cervical traction device benefits health by gently pulling the neck. This type of expansion allows patients to treat their pain by minimizing the pressure on the affected area. When pressure is eliminated, it provides relief from the pain.
The goal with this treatment method is to prevent patients from needing surgery or more invasive medical treatment to control the pain in this area. It’s done with a device, and patients can use this device with their physical therapist. If patients are more comfortable doing this at home, they can also buy, borrow, or potentially rent a device. Using this method of treatment for radiculopathy is one of the fastest ways for patients to ensure their pain is gone.
Artificial Disk Replacement
Artificial disk replacement is another option for individuals who suffer from radiculopathy. However, this is rarely the first option for treatment in many situations. Doctors want to exhaust all the non-invasive, non-surgical options before looking into this as an option for pain relief. If all else fails, doctors may discuss this with their patients, who need to know what to expect before making any decision. Artificial disk replacement is not for everyone, and some patients, such as those who do not have good bone quality, are not good candidates.
This surgery allows patients to feel relief from the pinched nerve pain, and it also improves range of motion. When patients have this surgery, there will be a period afterward in which they cannot be active. However, that period of inactivity and recovery does end, and then patients can go back to living an active life without any hindrance to their range of motion and ability to enjoy certain activities.
Anterior Cervical Discectomy And Fusion
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is another surgical option for many individuals who suffer from radiculopathy. It’s another last-resort for pain relief. Doctors will only recommend this surgery if nothing else has worked to help with the pain. When patients go through this surgery, they can expect a long recovery period. They can also expect to have their pain minimized significantly if not removed altogether. This surgery involves a discectomy, which is the process of decompressing both the nerve roots and the spinal cord.
If a patient chooses this surgical option, they'll spend anywhere from one to three nights in the hospital. The rest of their recovery is longer, and it takes approximately one to six weeks of gradual lifestyle changes. Doctors might recommend wearing a brace around their neck for as many as eight weeks, which is one of those situations patients must be aware of before undergoing such an invasive surgery. Doctors can provide patients with more detailed information should this come up as a treatment option.