Degeneration of the spine can result in several different conditions that cause problems. These are usually divided between problems that come from mechanical problems in the neck and problems, which come from nerves being irritated or pinched. A radiculopathy is a problem that results when a nerve in the back is irritated as it leaves the spinal canal. This condition usually occurs when a nerve root is being pinched by a herniated disc or a bone spur.

Symptoms: Weakness, Tingling sensations in the back and/or leg, numbness and loss of reflexes may all occur. These symptoms may worsen when the back is in different positions such as flexion and extension. It may worsen with increases in abdominal pressure as when you sneeze, cough, laugh or go to the bathroom. The distribution of sensory symptoms may follow a discrete pattern specific for each nerve root involved. We call this sensory distribution on the skin a dermatome and it helps diagnose where the injury is.

Diagnosis: It may be diagnosed by imaging, such as X-RAYS, MRI or CT. Testing such as EMG/NCS may also be performed to examine the ‘electrical system’ of the body and determine the severity of nerve compression.


Complications: Most back pain is due to degenerative changes that occur in the discs and the joints between each vertebra. Perhaps the most serious of the problems caused by degeneration of the spinal segment in the lumbar spine is the condition of spinal stenosis. The bone spurs begin to press on the spinal cord or the nerve roots. Pressure on the nerves in the spinal cord can cause numbness, tingling, pain, or loss of bowel and bladder function. A surgical emergency occurs when neurological decline is present.