Radiculopathy vs. Neuropathy

January 5, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Radiculopathy vs. Neuropathy

When someone receives an injury in an auto or another type of accident, the amount of information they need to absorb all at once can be overwhelming. The insurance company negotiation, paperwork, medical appointments, and medical jargon can all pose some difficulty when it comes to the claims process. In particular, the terms radiculopathy and neuropathy are commonly a source of frustration to the unfamiliar.

Radiculopathy vs. neuropathy are two medical terms that are not synonymous, although they do share similarities. Both involve damage to the nerves in the body, which can cause numbness, weakness, and decreased motor skills. Radiculopathy is actually considered a type of neuropathy since it is a general term for "nerve damage."

Although they are similar, the differences can change the symptoms you suffer and the treatment you will have to go through. These differences can also change how to approach pursuing compensation for your injuries. If the negligence of another party caused radiculopathy or neuropathy, you should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer to go over your options for pursuing compensation to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

What Is Radiculopathy?

The term radiculopathy refers to the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results when one of the nerve roots near a vertebra compresses. In other words, this is when the nerves in your spinal cord get pinched and cause many problems.

This compressed nerve can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness along the course of the compressed nerve. This pain radiates out to other parts of the body, depending on where the damage or compressed nerve root is located. Radiculopathy can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most common in the lower back (lumbar radiculopathy) and neck (cervical radiculopathy).

Radiculopathy less commonly occurs in the middle portion of the spine (thoracic radiculopathy). Most patients with radiculopathy-related issues respond well to conservative treatments, including medications such as:

Types of Radiculopathy

What form of radiculopathy you suffer depends on the location of the pinched nerve. The impact of a car accident or other personal injury accident can result in the compression of the nerves in the neck, upper back, and lower back. Depending on where the injury occurred, you will suffer from different types of symptoms, and the recovery process can look different.

The following are the three types of radiculopathy:

Cervical Radiculopathy Caused by a Pinched Nerve in the Neck

Cervical radiculopathy is the damage or disruption of nerve function that results when one of the nerve roots near the cervical (neck) vertebrae compresses. Damage to pinched nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation along the nerve's pathway into the arm and hand, depending on where the damaged roots are located. This is because nerves leave your spine to travel to other areas of the body for obvious reasons like movement, sensation, and reflexes.

In areas higher on the spine, like the neck, the nerves run to the arms and hands. In lower regions, they may run to the legs or buttocks. Cervical radiculopathy can result in numbness, tingling, and pain in the arms, hands, and legs, depending on the location of the pinched nerve.

Lumbar Radiculopathy Caused by a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back

This is a form of radiculopathy caused by a pinched nerve in the lower back, otherwise known as the lumbar region. Lumbar radicular pain radiates into the thigh, calf, and occasionally the foot directly along the course of a specific spinal nerve root. The most common symptom of radicular pain is sciatica, caused by compression of a spinal nerve in the lower back or the compression of the lower spinal nerve roots.

With this condition, leg pain is typically much worse than lower back pain. The specific areas of the leg or foot that are affected depend on which nerve in the lower back is compressed or damaged.

Thoracic Radiculopathy Caused by a Pinched Nerve in the Upper Back

This is the rarest form of radiculopathy and results from a pinched nerve in the upper back, also known as the thoracic area of the spine. The pain caused by thoracic radiculopathy can wrap around the body and affect the front. Symptoms of thoracic radiculopathy include tingling, pain, and numbness which can affect both the front and back of the body.

Causes of Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy occurs because of the compression or irritation of the nerve roots where they meet the spine. This can happen as you age, as the disc in the spine can degenerate and bulge. The body can produce bone spurs to strengthen the discs, which can narrow the nerve root exit and cause a pinched nerve.

Radiculopathy is commonly caused by:

  • Physical compression of the nerve by a herniated or bulging disc
  • Bone spurs
  • The thickening of surrounding ligaments
  • Arthritis

These conditions reduce the amount of space in the spinal canal and compress the exiting nerve. Inflammation from trauma, like those suffered in a car accident or personal injury, can also lead to radiculopathy by directly irritating the nerves. A herniated disc is, by far, the most common cause.

A herniated disc is a tear or rupture in the outer layer of the spinal disc, causing a portion of the gel-like nucleus to leak into the spinal canal. A herniated disc may have begun as a bulging disc, but it created so much pressure on the outer wall that it caused it to rupture. This herniation occupies the spinal canal, either putting pressure on or pinching the spinal cord and other nerve roots.

Ossification Can Cause Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy can result from the thickening of spinal ligaments known as ossification. Ossification leads to space narrowing around nerve roots and results in the nerves being pinched or compressed. Some rarer causes of radiculopathy can include:

  • Spinal infections
  • Cancerous growths
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Other forms of swelling or growth that can pinch the nerves of the spinal cord

Symptoms of Radiculopathy

Radiculopathy can cause pain, numbness, and many other symptoms to the back, neck, shoulder, arms, ad hands. The severity of your symptoms (and location o the symptoms) depends on where you suffered the pinched nerve that caused radiculopathy.

The following are some of the symptoms of radiculopathy:

  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers
  • Sharp pain
  • Weakness in the upper extremities
  • Decreased motor skills
  • Loss of sensation
  • Pain when moving the neck

Radiculopathy from Car Accidents

When someone receives an injury in a car accident, they may find (or not notice at first) that they have damaged their spine, either at the neck, upper back, lower back, or all three. Neck and back injuries are among the most common injuries sustained by motor vehicle accident victims.

If you have been the victim of a car accident and have experienced the type of injury that results from spinal trauma, you may have severe pain or discomfort in either the spinal area or in an area the pain has radiated out to.

The damage a car accident can cause to your spine can be severe and long-lasting, and it may take some time after the accident for the pain to begin. This is why a health care professional must examine you immediately after an accident.

What Is Neuropathy?

The medical term neuropathy does not refer to a specific disease or syndrome. Instead, it is a generic term that describes various disorders or malfunctions of the nervous system.

There are different categories of neuropathy, depending on the location, function, and specific types of the affected nerves. This is because nerves anywhere in the body can be damaged due to an accident or injury. Neuropathy and radiculopathy are similar in that they are both conditions that relate to nerve damage, and their symptoms are similar.

However, while radiculopathy is caused by the pinching of root nerves of the spinal column, neuropathy is damage or malfunction of peripheral nerves. It encompasses a much wider array of issues caused by nerve damage. The two also have differing levels of treatment, as surgery can treat radiculopathy, but not neuropathy due to the nature of the nerve damage not being based on physical nerve compression. There are also other non-trauma causes of neuropathy, including diabetes, disease, and complications of old age.

Types of Neuropathy

Neuropathy classifies according to the types or location of nerves that are affected. Other types of neuropathy caused by specific diseases are named for the condition causing it. What type of neuropathy a victim suffers from will change the symptoms, where the victim is affected, and the treatment required to heal the injury. The following are the different types of neuropathy:

Peripheral Neuropathy Affects Nerves Outside of the Brain and Spinal Cord

When the nerve problem is located outside of the areas of the brain and spinal cord, this is known as peripheral neuropathy. These nerves are considered part of the peripheral nervous system since they are secondary to the main two nerve areas: the brain and spine. It makes sense then that peripheral neuropathy affects the nerves of the extremities, and the term "proximal neuropathy" has been used to refer to nerve damage that specifically causes pain in the shoulders, thighs, hips, or buttocks.

Cranial Neuropathy Caused by Damage to the Cranial Nerves

Cranial neuropathy occurs when any of the twelve cranial nerves— the nerves that exit from the brain directly—are damaged. This can result from traumatic brain injuries, infections, and strokes. Damage to the cranial nerves affects movement and sensation in the eyes and face. Two specific types of cranial neuropathy are optic neuropathy and auditory neuropathy.

Optic neuropathy refers to damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual signals from the eye to the brain. Auditory neuropathy involves the nerve that is responsible for hearing, which carries signals from the inner ear to the brain.

Autonomic Neuropathy Caused by Damage to the Involuntary Nervous System

Autonomic neuropathy is damage to the nerves of the involuntary nervous system. This type of neuropathy is commonly caused by health conditions, such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and amyloidosis. The autonomic nerves control automatic body functions, which operate on their own.

Some of the organs and bodily systems affected by autonomic neuropathy include:

  • The heart
  • The circulatory system
  • The digestive system
  • The gastrointestinal system
  • Bladder function
  • Sexual response
  • Perspiration

The nerve damage affects how the brain sends messages to other vital organs, leading to a reduction in the efficiency of these organs. Autonomic neuropathy can lead to dizziness, fainting, urinary issues, sexual difficulties, digestion problems, and intolerance to exercise.

Focal Neuropathy

Focal neuropathy is neuropathy that is restricted to one nerve or group of nerves or one part of the body. The damage and resulting pain center on one area and normally result from compression or trauma. Focal neuropathies commonly occur in the nerves in the hands, head, torso, and legs.

The most common type of focal neuropathy is entrapment, which involves the nerves becoming entrapped in the narrow passages between the bones and tissue. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common form of entrapment that can lead to focal neuropathy.

Symptoms of Neuropathy

Symptoms depend on which nerve is damaged and whether the damage affects one nerve, several, or the whole body. The following are some of the symptoms associated with neuropathy:

  • Pain and numbness: An early sign of nerve damage (neuropathy) is a tingling or burning sensation in the arms or legs, which may begin in your toes and feet. The neuropathic pain will progressively get more severe, and you may also begin to lose some feeling in your legs and/or arms.
  • Muscle problems: Neuropathy may begin to make it difficult to control one's muscles and cause weakness. A weak muscle may cramp, twitch, or decrease in size.
  • Organ issues: People with nerve damage may have problems that affect their organ functions. For example, problems digesting their food (bloating, heartburn, or vomiting), difficulty controlling their bowels or bladder, or trouble swallowing can all be symptoms of nerve damage.
  • Other symptoms: Men may find they have problems with erections, while women may have trouble with vaginal dryness or lack of orgasm. You may start to sweat too little, too much, or too often, resulting in problems controlling your body temperature.

Neuropathy from Car Accidents and Other Trauma

Physical injuries are the most common cause of injury to a nerve. Injury or sudden trauma from automobile accidents, slip-and-falls, or sports-related injuries, can cause nerves to be partially or completely severed, crushed, compressed, or stretched.

Broken or damaged bones can put pressure on surrounding nerves. A herniated or bulging disc from a spinal injury can also pressure surrounding nerves or the spinal cord itself, causing compressed nerves. Entrapment neuropathy (compression) is caused by physical compression or irritation of major nerve trunks and peripheral nerves, causing nerve pain to radiate or other symptoms.

Forceful or awkward movements can cause damage as well, resulting in irritation that may cause ligaments, tendons, or muscles to become inflamed and swollen. Pressure on a nerve can result in the inability to transmit signals either to or from the brain. Sometimes they may be misinterpreted, resulting in the sensation of pain.

Seeking Damages for Radiculopathy and Neuropathy

Following a car accident, slip an fall, or other accident that causes nerve damage, you may need to file a personal injury claim to receive compensation to pay for damages. In case of a car accident, your personal injury protection insurance may not cover the full cost of your nerve injury. You may have suffered both economic and non-economic damages, which your car accident lawyer can help assess and put a value on.

The following are some of the damages associated with a nerve injury you could pursue:

Consider Hiring an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney to Help You

If you are experiencing any of these issues after an accident, you may have nerve damage. You should immediately seek health care to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Dolman Law Group can work with you and your healthcare professional to determine your current and future medical needs and how they will factor into getting compensation for your damages.

You should not have to pay the monetary and psychological costs of someone else's negligence alone. The effects of nerve damage can take years to heal, create substantial medical bills, and affect your ability to work and live freely. Even with medical treatment and rehabilitation, you may never fully recover to your former abilities.

An experienced car accident lawyer can assist you in filing a claim with the at-fault party's insurance company. Insurance companies employ lawyers and insurance adjusters that can work to limit your settlement and prevent you from receiving fair compensation. A reputable auto accident attorney can handle negotiations, present evidence to prove the at-fault party's liability, and represent you in court.

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Personal Injury Claim

If you suffered radiculopathy or neuropathy from a car crash, job

injury, skip and fall, or other accident, the pain and changes to your lifestyle are enough without having to worry about how you are going to deal with the financial impact. You could be compensated for your injury – especially if you have the support of an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help you maximize the payment you receive.

At Dolman Law Group, we've helped thousands of victims get compensation in situations they had no control over and now have to live with for the rest of their lives. It can be a heavy burden to carry, but we can help take some of the load off.

Our experienced personal injury attorneys believe in pursuing fair compensation, not just the first settlement offer thrown your way. We will offer you specialized support to tackle your car accident case with an eye toward reliving the financial stress associated with steep nerve injury medical bills.

Visit our website to meet our attorneys, see videos about personal injury topics, and read about our services. Call our offices today to set up a free consultation and case evaluation. Contact us at (727) 451-6900 or leave a message on our online contact page.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900



Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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