Radiculopathy is a medical term to describe a condition in which one or more of the spinal nerves has been compressed or irritated. This can cause symptoms of pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the lower back and legs. Depending on the specific cause, exercises may be prescribed to help to alleviate associated symptoms. If you suffer from radiculopathy, consult your physician or physical therapist to determine what exercises are appropriate for you.
Herniated discs, which compress nerve roots in the lower spine, commonly cause radiculopathy in the lower back and legs. Exercises specific for this condition are prescribed based on what positions cause the pain to regress from the legs into the low back. These exercises include prone extensions or prone press-ups, which have been shown to be effective at improving symptoms caused by a protruding disc.
Radiculopathy can also be caused by spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause irritation or impingement of a nerve. Spine specialists typically prescribe forward-bending motions known as flexion exercises to ameliorate symptoms associated with spinal stenosis. Flexion exercises are beneficial because they help to increase the amount of space within the spinal canal, which decreases compression on the nerves.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises
Degenerative disc disease is quite common and can cause radiculopathy via compression of a nerve root by an intervertebral disc. Lumbar stabilization exercises are typically prescribed for this form of radiculopathy. These exercises essentially train the body to maintain positions that provide the greatest relief in symptoms. Specific exercises include the hook lying march, bridging and bird-dogs. Hands-on instruction is typically required in order to correctly perform these exercises, since they can be detrimental to your condition without proper guidance. Physical therapists are specially trained to design and implement lumbar stabilization programs and can help you to perform the exercises properly.
Hybrid Exercise Programs
Radiculopathy can also result from spondylolisthesis, which is an abnormality in the spine that causes a vertebrae to slip. This slipped vertebrae can compress on a nerve and produce symptoms of pain in the low back and legs. Spine specialists will commonly prescribe a hybrid program of flexion and stabilization exercises for radiculopathy caused by this disorder. The purpose of this exercise program is to promote stability of the spine while you are in a flexed position. Specific exercises include pelvic tilts, curl-ups and hook lying marches. These exercises also require supervision in order to be performed properly, and you should consult your physical therapist for guidance.