Lumbar Radiculopathy and Denervation Atrophy

Lumbar Radiculopathy and Denervation Atrophy

Have you ever noticed that one of your legs is smaller than the other? Or maybe the muscles in one leg aren’t as strong as the other side? This could actually be due to a nerve problem in your back called “lumbosacral radiculopathy” which leads to “denervation atrophy” of your leg muscles. This essentially means that a spinal nerve is damaged and can’t communicate with the muscles like it used to, causing the muscle to shrink in size.

A common cause of this condition is a lumbar disc herniation, usually at the L4-L5 or L5-S1 level. The inner disc material protrudes from its casing, compressing and irritating the neighboring spinal nerve root. People often develop sciatica, which is nerve pain running from the low back down into the leg. However similarly, there are motor nerves from the spinal cord that innervate the muscles in your legs, and If one of these is damaged or compressed, it can lead to loss of muscle function as well. Compression of the L5 nerve root usually causes deficits in toe extension, while damage to the S1 nerve root causes weakened ankle plantarflexion. One can also experience numbness on the outside of their leg with this condition.

At Scottsdale Sports Medicine Institute, Dr. Carfagno’s specialized musculoskeletal exam can pinpoint exactly which nerve has been damaged. The diagnosis is then confirmed with an MRI and/or electromyography testing. Treatment first involves a course of anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy. However if symptoms persist, treatment may require steroid injections or surgery.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms don’t hesitate to get evaluated, it may due to an underlying lumbosacral radiculopathy! Call us at 480-664-4615 to set up an appointment.

Spinal cord impingement on MRI