Radiculopathy vs Neuropathy: Know the Differences

There is often confusion over the medical terms radiculopathy vs. neuropathy. Both conditions deal with damage or dysfunction of the nerves and can result from a traumatic event such as a car accident. However, while symptoms may overlap, these two diagnoses are not the same. For instance, comparisons of the terms lumbar radiculopathy vs. neuropathy can mean similar but differing conditions.  In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between radiculopathy and neuropathy, the different types within the two, and common symptoms.

What is Radiculopathy?

The human spine comprises of 33 bones which form the vertebrae. These bones allow movement of the back and are all held in place by a complex network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. In addition, emerging from your spinal cord are various nerves and roots carrying motor and sensory signals to your body. Between each vertebra, intervertebral discs exist to cushion the bones from rubbing against each other. Damage to one or more of these discs can cause compression to a nearby nerve root. This compression or ‘pinching’ of the spinal nerve root is what is known as radiculopathy. Radiculopathy falls under the larger umbrella of neuropathy, which deals with general nerve damage. Therefore, radiculopathy can sometimes be referred to as ‘radicular neuropathy.

Types of Radiculopathy

There are three types of radiculopathy, depending on where the spinal nerve damage occurs.

  • Lumbar radiculopathy: When compressed or inflammation of nerves occurs in the lower section of the spine. Pain can spread from the back of the thigh to the calf and foot, known as sciatica. One of the most common pinched nerves in the lower back is the S1 nerve. S1 neuropathy can cause loss of function in the feet. 
  • Thoracic radiculopathy: This type of radiculopathy involves compressed nerves in the upper area of the spine (i.e. upper back). Thoracic radiculopathy is the least common of the three types.
  • Cervical Radiculopathy: Cervical radiculopathy is the compression of the nerve root located at the neck. Nerves located in the cervical region control sensations related to your arms and hands.

What is Neuropathy?

Neuropathy is the overarching condition describing damage or dysfunction of your nerves. When nerves are damaged, it results in a disruption in communication with the brain. The damage of one nerve is termed mononeuropathy. Damage to more than one nerve is called polyneuropathy. Nerve damage can be caused by a variety of reasons, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Chemotherapy
  • Hereditary disorders
  • Trauma (i.e. car accident or suffering from a blow)
  • Alcoholism
  • Infections

While often used synonymously with “peripheral neuropathy,” the term neuropathy is not any one specific condition. Rather, it describes a host of varying types of nerve damage-related health issues.

Types of Neuropathy

Different types of neuropathy depend on the cause or location of the damaged nerves. Below are three common types of neuropathy:

  • Cranial neuropathy: Cranial nerves are nerves located in the brain controlling facial, speech, hearing, and seeing abilities. Damage to one or multiple cranial nerves can result in pain, numbness, vision problems, or slurred speech.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: The damage of nerves located at the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system contains various networks of secondary nerves outside the brain and spine. Peripheral neuropathy is the damaging of these peripheral nerve cells causing pain typically at the extremities of the body.

Often, symptoms for radiculopathy vs plexopathy can seem similar. However, these two are different conditions. Plexopathy is a type of peripheral neuropathy affecting a network of nerves located near the shoulders or lower back.

  • Autonomic neuropathy: These are nerves that automatically regulate various body functions, such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, urination, or digestion. If damaged, disruption of communication between the brain and the organs will result.

Radiculopathy vs. Neuropathy Symptoms

As mentioned, the key difference between spinal radiculopathy vs. peripheral neuropathy is the location and type of nerve affected. Whereas radiculopathy deals with damage to the nerves associated with the spine, peripheral neuropathy is damage to the secondary nerves located at the peripheral of the body. Symptoms for radiculopathy vs. peripheral neuropathy will both, therefore, range depending on where the damaged nerve is, whether it’s one or multiple nerves damaged, and the severity of the damage.  Typical symptoms for cervical (neck) radiculopathy can include pain and numbness in the arm or hands. As previously mentioned, lumbar neuropathy can cause lower back or leg pain (i.e. sciatica). Peripheral neuropathy may include the following symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in feet or hands
  • Sharp or shooting pain
  • Loss of coordination and balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Bowel, bladder, or digestive issues

Speak with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

When your body is involved with a car accident, the potential for the crushing of bones or tearing of muscles can take place. As a result, bones can put added pressure on the surrounding nerves. If this occurs, car accident victims can experience peripheral or radicular neuropathic pain. Besides seeking immediate medical attention, the next step you should take is to speak with an experienced Las Vegas car accident attorney. Medical bills and treatments for neuropathy symptoms can be costly. Your quality of life and how you interact with others may also be affected. An attorney can help you negotiate with your insurance company to ensure you are compensated fairly for medical bills, as well as any pain and suffering damages.

Valiente Mott

If you have any further questions about radiculopathy vs. neuropathy and legal ramifications surrounding these injuries, please contact us. Valiente Mott’s Las Vegas personal injury attorney team will provide you advice on how to best seek compensation for your injuries. Call us at 702-623-2323 today! 

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