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What Is Lumbar Radiculitis?

By Steve Silverman ; Updated August 14, 2017

Lumbar radiculitis is often associated with a herniated or bulging disc. When you suffer an injury or degenerative disc disease to the lumbar (lower back) region of your spine, you will often get referred pain from that injury that goes anywhere from your upper buttocks to your foot. This is also called sciatica.


You may have suffered a fall in the house, experienced an auto accident, hurt yourself in a sports competition or simply grew older. All of these can lead to lower back injuries. These injuries include damage to the discs in the spine. You will feel some pain or discomfort in the area of the injury and you will also feel pain and/or weakness down one of your legs. This is the primary identification of lumbar radiculitis.


Referred pain down the leg from lumbar radiculitis can be mild to severe. It can also cause weakness or numbness in any one of a number of areas down the leg. For example, a herniated disc can cause loss of strength in the calf muscle and tingling in the toes. As function is impacted, the patient may have to consider lower back surgery to remove the disc debris causing the impairment to return the function to normal.

Time Frame

When a patient first suffers a lumbar injury, lower back pain may be the first symptom. The referred pain will come later as debris from the herniated disc moves around and impacts the nerves near the spine. It can take weeks for the debris to settle near a nerve and cause pain, discomfort or a loss of function.


Lumbar radicultis and a herniated disc can be diagnosed by a physician. The physician will ask the patient to recall the event which the injury occurred and then ask him to perform several tests, such as leg lifts with pressure to various heights. Additionally, the lumbar radiculitis and herniated disc can be confirmed by an MRI or CT scan. The MRI will show exactly which disc or discs have been herniated. A more involved test called a myelography that provides further detail can be done when surgery is an option.


There are several forms of treatment for lumbar radiculitis. The first is rest. A patient who can stay off his feet completely for the first 24 to 48 hours after suffering an injury may be able to help his condition dramatically. Pain relievers can also help and your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication to relieve swelling and pressure. Physical therapy and massage may help, but in many cases it will not. An epidural injection of steroids can help the patient deal with the pain and discomfort of the injury for anywhere from two weeks to four months. Finally, surgery is an option that has to be considered in the case of debilitating pain and loss of function.

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