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What is lumbar radiculitis?

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Lumbar radiculitis refers to an inflammation or irritation of a nerve root in the spine's lower area, according to Dr. Marla S. Kaufman, a clinical associate professor at the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine of the University of Washington. It occurs when a prolapsed or abnormally protruding disc presses on a nerve in the region where the nerve connects to the spinal column.

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Dr. Kaufman states that compression or irritation of the nerve root causes pain in the back and down the leg. In lumbar radiculitis, a nerve extending from the sacrum and nerves coming from every side of the five lumbar vertebrae may stimulate all muscles in the legs into action and transmit sensation from the legs to the brain.

People with lumbar radiculitis typically experience a sharp and burning, or dull and aching, pain that runs through the gluteal muscle, thigh, calf and foot, notes Dr. Kaufman. They usually experience weakness, numbness and a tingling sensation in their legs when symptoms worsen. The symptoms range from mild to severe and last for hours, days or longer. Pain fluctuates depending on a person's activity and physical position, such as sitting or standing. Patients are usually still able to perform daily activities and may be able to reduce discomfort through physical therapy, pain medications and epidural steroid injections.

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