Radiculopathy is a pinched nerve or nerves along the spine. Pressure where the nerve connects to the spine (nerve root) can cause pain, weakness and other symptoms.

Because nerves send sensations through the body, pressure on a nerve in the neck can cause forearm pain and weakness. Pressure on a nerve in the lower back or tailbone area can cause foot symptoms. Pressure on the sciatic nerve causes sciatica, or leg pain, tingling or numbness.

Causes include a nerve that is pinched, irritated, inflamed or damaged by disease. It can also be caused by a nerve that isn’t working properly because of low blood flow.



  • Pain
  • Weakness in arms or legs
  • Numbness or tingling in arms or legs
  • Loss of coordination or balance

Diagnostic tests

  • Electromyography: In this test, also called EMG, the doctor inserts tiny needles into muscles and asks you to gently squeeze the muscle. This sends signals to the electrodes that are recorded on a graph.
  • Nerve conduction studies: In these tests, also called NCS, the doctor tapes small electrodes over muscles and uses a mild electrical current to test nerves.

Nonsurgical treatments

Mild or moderate symptoms can often be treated without surgery, an approach the OHSU Spine Center favors whenever possible.

  • Medication: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can help.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises such as back strengthening can ease symptoms. Training to avoid certain positions or to move without putting stress on nerves can also help.
  • Relaxation