Finding relief from pain, tingling and numbness in your body that affects our quality of life can be a challenge. This is mainly due to the fact that some mystery often surrounds the cause of your pain symptoms.
There are many causes for Radiculopathy and Neuropathy, and they often have overlapping or very similar symptoms. This can make it tricky to diagnose what exactly is causing your pain, and figure out if you’re suffering from one or the other.
The good news is, there is something you can do about nagging pain and discomfort caused by nerve damage. The first step is to identify the cause of your pain. Once a diagnosis is established, you’ll be able to explore some options for finding relief.
Here, we’ll point out some of the key differences when we compare Neuropathy vs Radiculopathy, so you can blaze a clear path to freedom from your unpleasant symptoms, and get on with the good stuff: Living pain-free.
Why the Confusion?
When it comes to diagnosing the cause of your back, neck, foot or leg pain, there’s often a lot of confusion surrounding the origin of the problem, which can make it almost impossible to treat.
This confusion is due to the fact that many Radiculopathy symptoms actually overlap with the same symptoms you’d experience with Peripheral Neuropathy.
This can be a very frustrating problem if you’re trying to treat the right thing. You may have explored lots of different treatment options, tried physical therapy, chiropractic care and in severe cases, even surgery… But you’ll still experience ongoing pain if the source of the issue is incorrectly diagnosed. To add further insult to injury; in some cases you may actually be experiencing both Radiculopathy and Neuropathy.
What are the Main Differences Between Radiculopathy and Neuropathy?
- Radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root in the spinal cord is pinched. It starts in the spine and can present pain elsewhere, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact location of the problem.
- It originates in the spinal canal, and this pinched nerve root can be located in our neck, upper, or lower back.
- These pinched nerves in our spine react to being compressed by producing pain, numbness and muscle weakness.
- The pain will often radiate down to other areas of your body like your shoulders, arm, buttocks or legs. This is due to nerve compression in your upper or lower back sending confused pain signals to other body parts.
- Radiculopathy can be caused by bone spurs, arthritis and herniated discs pressing on surrounding nerve roots in the spine, that will cause pain that then radiates to other areas of the body.
- Symptoms can be eased with rest, massage, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and in some cases surgery to create more space in cramped nerve channels for nerves to travel through without irritation.
- Neuropathy is the name used to describe any nerve damage that has occurred in your peripheral nerve system.
- These peripheral nerves are responsible for sending the messages to and from your brain and spinal cord through the central nervous system, to all the other areas of your body.
- They allow us the sense of touch, and for feeling sensations, alerting our brains when we experience stimuli in any part of our body. For this reason, when you suffer from Peripheral Neuropathy, these nerves can send incorrect signals, alerting your brain to pain when none is actually present, and sometimes not producing pain at all when you are injured.
- Neuropathy is often mistakenly diagnosed as Radiculopathy due to its overlapping symptoms, but sufferers may additionally experience: Decreased sensitivity to touch, loss of balance and coordination, and dampened reflexes.
- It’s generally caused by underlying conditions such as diabetes, excessive protein accumulations in the body and hypothyroidism; but it can also be caused independently by poor circulation, past injuries and infections, excessive consumption of alcohol, vitamin deficiencies, and even unhealthy exposure to some toxins that can affect the peripheral nerve system.
- Neuropathy can be eased with massage, physical therapy, hot and cold therapy, anti-inflammatory medications and lifestyle changes that address the underlying cause.
What’s the Next Step?
Working with your doctor to identify the problem that’s causing your pain is the first step. From here, you’ll be able to rule out any potential underlying medical issues, and then conduct further diagnostics to establish where your pain originates from.
Once you determine what your symptoms mean, you can carve out a treatment plan in line with your best course of action.
Staying on top of our health is paramount in maintaining a happy, healthy quality of life. We all deserve to live free of pain and discomfort, so use this guide to help you get to the (nerve!) root of your pain, to achieve lasting relief with effective results.
Be happy, healthy and strong…
Jane | Slabway Wellness Contributor