Radiculopathy is the result of a compressed nerve causing pain that radiates into the arm or leg.
The compression of the nerve may be either an acute episode, from either a whiplash injury, disc herniation or additional traumatic episode such as a fracture. Alternatively radiculopathy can develop over time from a compression of the nerve that is slow and progressive resulting from thickening of ligaments or arthritis/bone spurs.
Can Radiculopathy Heal?
The nerve that is affected by radiculopathy comes off of the spinal cord and is called a peripheral nerve. Peripheral nerves have the ability to recover depending upon two factors. One factor is how forceful the nerve is compressed and the second factor is the length of time of the compression. Now consider the hit to be very hard or if that nerve is compressed for a long period of time, then the nerve is slow to recover and may not recover completely.
A nerve recovery pattern is not like a light switch where you go from on to off, or a damaged nerve to a normal nerve. There is a period of recovery time. A nerve recovers at the rate of 1 mm per day. Thus one can see that repetitively damaging a nerve results in delayed recovery or inability to recover.
If a nerve is decompressed the recovery is dependent upon those factors. Usually pain is the first thing that recovers, paralysis may recover and the last thing to recover is numbness / tingling / dysethesias / exercise intolerance. The recovery of the nerve is variable and depends upon the two injury factors of magnitude of force, and how long the nerve has been compressed. If a nerve is not completely and irreversibly damaged there is hope for improvement with decompression.
Dr.Sandeep C Agrawal
Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon
Agrasen Hospital Gondia