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Radiculopathy: Common Spine Injury Related to Accidents

What is Radiculopathy?

Radiculopathy is not a specific condition, but rather a description of a general issue in which one or more nerves in the body are negatively affected and not working properly. The symptoms of the pain associated with radiculopathy generate from the nerve root. Damage to a nerve root can manifest in pain, weakness, numbness, or difficulty controlling specific muscles. Radiculopathy can occur in any part of the spine, but it’s most common in the lower back (lumbar) and neck. It’s less commonly found in the middle portion (thoracic spine) of the spine.

[Click here to read more about the parts of the spine].

Cervical radiculopathy is the medical description of pain and neurological symptoms resulting from any type of condition that irritates a nerve in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine. Degeneration of the cervical spine can result in a myriad of conditions that may result in neurological problems. These are usually divided between problems that come from unconscious issues in the neck, and problems originating from nerves that are irritated or pinched.

Lumbar radiculopathy causes chronic pain which occurs in the lower back and legs. Damage to the lower segments of the lumbar spine and compression of the very nerve roots that carry signals throughout the body can manifest in weakness and often numbness of the lower extremities.

Another common cause of cervical and lumbar radiculopathy is degeneration. As people age, their spines are subject to increasing degeneration which can cause herniated discs and similar problems, leading to lumbar radiculopathy. However, acute trauma from a car accident or motorcycle accident can lead to very significant pathology including damage to the discs, muscles, and ligaments; as well as to the nerves travelling throughout the spine from the neck to the lower back.

As a Florida injury attorney, I can tell you first-hand that degeneration of the spine does not rule out whether the car wreck or motorcycle accident played a role in a client’s injuries. Spines degenerate over time as a result of age; this happens to all people. However, injury victims are typically asymptomatic (pain free in spite of existing pathology due to pre-existing issues) until a traumatic event results in a manifestation of pain. It’s perfectly normal to have degenerating spine from age that then gets injured in a traumatic event like a car accident.

The insurance carriers will often argue that the MRI of a client’s back or neck reveals degeneration. However they are unable to explain why my client’s medical history is devoid of complaints of back or neck pain. In Florida, we have a standard jury instruction for aggravation and exacerbation injuries. It’s the job of the plaintiff attorney to illustrate the extent of the aggravation or exacerbation to the injury victim’s back or neck. Many Florida injury victims become discouraged bv the insurance carrier’s aggressive defense and claims of degeneration.  Thus, it becomes essential to place more focus on the clinical complaints of the injury victim as opposed to the diagnostic studies alone.

Common Complaints and Symptoms of Radiculopathy

The symptoms of radiculopathy depend on which nerves are affected. The nerves exiting from the neck control the muscles of the neck and arms and provide feeling and control function of your upper extremities. The nerves from the middle portion of the back control the muscles of the chest and abdomen and support muscle function and feeling in those general areas. The nerves found in the lower back control the muscles of the buttocks and legs and provide feeling there. The type of pain can vary, some describe the pain as dull, all over pain; others say the pain is severe burning or sharp.

The most common symptoms of radiculopathy are pain, numbness and tingling in the arms or legs. It is common for injury victims to clinically present with restricted neck or back pain as well. Lumbar radiculopathy that results in pain that radiates down a lower extremity is commonly referred to as sciatica.

How Does Radiculopathy Relate to Automobile Accidents?

The most common types of injuries and complaints from a car accident involve the neck and back. Sometimes injuries to the spine are severe enough to damage the nerves and create symptoms of radiculopathy.

There are some types of neck and back injuries that warrant immediate medical attention. When back pain follows a car accident, a thorough evaluation at an emergency room or with a physiatrist (physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation) is necessary to determine the extent of the injury and to rule out serious concerns such as neurological issues that can lead to permanent alteration of bodily function and also to examine whether any damage to the spinal cord can be located.

Signs of a spinal cord injury may include:

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Leg weakness
  • Numbness in part of the body
  • Paralysis


A physician that treats back and neck injuries will conduct various tests, such as x-rays, CT scans and MRI scans to help determine where the injury is located and the level of damage. Once the doctor is able to diagnose your specific condition, treatment will be recommended. Treatment may include medication, rest, rehabilitation, physical therapy or surgery. In regards to neurological issues such as radiculopathy, a Neurologist or Physiatrist will often order an EMG test to correlate the clinical signs of radiculopathy found during an office exam and evaluation. An EMG is a test that checks the responses of muscles to messages sent by nerves.

Clearwater Personal Injury Attorney

Dolman Law Group is a Clearwater personal injury law firm located in central Pinellas County, with locations in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richie, and Sarasota. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group limit their practice to personal injury law and represent only consumers and have never nor will ever represent the interests of an insurance carrier. If you need help with your case, please give us a call and we will do everything we can to get you the compensation you deserve.

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Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765
727-451-6900

Back and Neck Injury Lawyers