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Radiculopathy vs Neuropathy: What’s the Difference?

radiculopathy vs neuropathy

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There are a number of different injuries and conditions that car accident victims suffer from. Two examples of these conditions include radiculopathy and neuropathy. These terms are often used interchangeably, as many people falsely believe they are the same condition. However, neuropathy and radiculopathy are distinct injuries that often occur during traumatic scenarios, such as car accidents. While they are similar, the symptoms of radiculopathy vs neuropathy are notably different. 

At Reich & Binstock, we believe it’s important for personal injury attorneys to understand the medical diagnoses of their clients. The more information we have about exactly what your injuries mean for your life, the better equipped we will be to fight for compensation. In this blog, we discuss the differences between neuropathy and radiculopathy. We also discuss what those terms mean for personal injury victims. To schedule your free case evaluation, please call the Houston personal injury lawyers of Reich & Binstock at 713-622-7271 today.

What Is Radiculopathy?

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, radiculopathy involves pinching of the nerve roots that split off from the spinal cord. These roots travel between the vertebrae in your spine to the other areas of your body. If the roots are pinched or damaged, the symptoms that result from it is what we call radiculopathy.

What Is the Difference Between Sciatica and Radiculopathy?

Sciatica is actually a form of radiculopathy. Radiculopathy is a broad category of symptoms that result from pinched nerve roots in the spinal column. Sciatica is a form of nerve root pain that begins in the lower back. It is characterized by pain traveling down the buttocks along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. 

Symptoms of Radiculopathy

The symptoms and pain resulting from the types of radiculopathy depend on the location of the compressed nerve root. Usually, any pain resulting from the condition is often described as a sharp or burning pain that begins in the neck and travels to other body parts. These other body parts are generally connected to the affected nerves. Specific symptoms include the following.

  • Decrease in motor skills
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers and hands
  • Weakness in the hand, arm, or shoulder
  • Pain while straining or moving the neck
  • Loss of sensation

What Causes Radiculopathy?

Generally, any trauma or changes that occur to the tissue around the nerve roots could cause neuropathy. The tissues involved could be the bones, the tendons, or even the discs between vertebrae. If the tissues shift or are compressed by a narrowing of space around them, this can lead to radiculopathy symptoms. For many people who experience radiculopathy, it results from the gradual degeneration of their spine. However, it can also occur as a result of spinal injury or trauma. Other causes include the following.

  • Herniated discs or bulging discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Compressed nerves
  • Thickening ligaments in the surrounding area

Conditions such as these lead to a reduction in space around the affected nerve root. The lack of space leads to nerve compression and then radiculopathy occurs. Herniated discs and bulging discs are by far the most common causes of radiculopathy. 

Is Radiculopathy Nerve Damage?

Yes. It is one of many forms of nerve damage. However, the condition is usually not permanent and is caused by a number of events or conditions. Conditions that can cause radiculopathy include arthritis, ossification, herniated discs, inflammation, and even spinal bone spurs. This can also occur after a number of personal injury cases, including car accidents, truck accidents, and pedestrian accidents.

Radiculopathy from Car Accidents

Many people who suffer nerve damage during a car accident will experience radiculopathy in some form or another. Even if they don’t notice it right away, the pain can worsen over time. If you got into a serious accident and are experiencing back or neck pain, you might be suffering from radiculopathy. If so, it’s important that you speak with a personal injury attorney to begin fighting for compensation for your injuries and pain.


Ossification is another common cause of radiculopathy. This condition occurs when the ligaments of the spine start to thicken. When these ligaments get thicker, the available space around the nerve roots is reduced. This leads to pinched nerve roots and radicular pain. Other rare causes of radiculopathy include the following.

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Cancer growths
  • Infections of the spine
  • Other swelling or growth that pinches the nerves

Types of Radiculopathy

The symptoms of radiculopathy depend on exactly which spinal nerve root is affected. They range from mild to severe with the potential to affect someone’s daily life. Below, we outline the common types of radiculopathy and their symptoms.

Lumbar Radiculopathy

This occurs from pressure on the nerve roots in the lower back. For many people, it causes hip pain, sciatica, and shooting pain in the legs. In very serious cases, sexual dysfunction, incontinence, and paralysis are also possible.

Thoracic Radiculopathy

This occurs from a compressed nerve root in the upper back. It can lead to chest and torso pain. Rarely, it has been mistaken for shingles.

Cervical Radiculopathy

This occurs from pressure on the nerve roots in the neck. It can lead to tingling, burning, weakness, or a loss of feeling in the fingers, hands, arms, or shoulders.

What Is Neuropathy?

This is a broad term that describes a group of disorders or malfunctioning of the nervous system. The different types of neuropathy are classified by the locations, functions, and types of nerves affected. The main difference between radiculopathy and neuropathy is which nerves the condition involves. Radiculopathy affects the root nerves of the spinal column. Neuropathy affects the peripheral nerves of the spinal column. 

What Is the Difference Between Neuropathy and Polyneuropathy?

Forms of neuropathy that affect only one nerve are called mononeuropathy. Neuropathy that affects two or more nerves is polyneuropathy. They are the same conditions, they just describe how many nerves the condition involves.

Symptoms of Neuropathy

The symptoms of this condition vary depending on the location and type of affected nerves. Acute neuropathy occurs when symptoms arise suddenly. Chronic neuropathy develops over time. Below, we list other common symptoms of neuropathy.

  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Numbness, particularly in the hands and feet
  • Throbbing, burning, or sharp pain
  • Changes in physical sensation, such as heightened sensitivity or an inability to feel sensations
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Issues with urination, digestion, and bowel movements
  • Sexual dysfunction

Types of Neuropathy

As with radiculopathy, the types of neuropathy are sorted and categorized according to which nerves are affected. Below, we outline some common forms of neuropathy.

Cranial Neuropathy

There are twelve cranial nerves in the body. They exit directly from the brain. When one of these twelve nerves suffers nerve damage, this is cranial neuropathy. If the optic nerve suffers damage, we call it optic neuropathy. If the nerve responsible for hearing suffers damage, we call it auditory neuropathy. 

Peripheral Neuropathy

If the neuropathy symptoms result from nerve problems outside the brain and spinal cord, this is peripheral neuropathy. In other words, if the peripheral nervous system suffers damage, this causes peripheral neuropathy. The peripheral nerves, when damaged, can lead to leg pain, hip pain, and thigh pain.

Autonomic Neuropathy

If the involuntary nervous system nerves suffer damage, we refer to it as autonomic neuropathy. These nerves control the autonomous functions of the body, such as the following.

  • Bladder function
  • Sexual response
  • Heart muscles
  • Circulatory system
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Digestive system
  • Perspiration 

Focal Neuropathy

This occurs when the damage is focused on one nerve or to a close group of nerves in one specific part of the body. The resulting pain is also very restricted to one area or part of the body. 

What Causes Neuropathy?

These types of nerve injuries usually happen due to physical injuries and trauma. Sudden injuries, such as those in car accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, or sports injuries are the most common specific causes. Additionally, even broken bones can put too much pressure on a peripheral nerve and cause pain. When compression of a nerve causes the pain, we call it entrapment neuropathy. 

Contact Reich & Binstock Today

At Reich & Binstock, we feel that it’s important to understand the significance of the injuries that our clients suffer from accidents. When someone else’s negligence causes your pain and injuries, you deserve compensation. After all, now you have medical bills to pay, pain to endure, and you’ve probably missed work. Unfortunately, all these things together can greatly impact your life. That’s why our Houston car accident lawyers are here to fight for just compensation for you. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call 713-622-7271.

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