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Author - Anastasia Belikov, PT, Cert. MDT
Graduated with her DPT in 2017

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How Pain Can Move


Monday, April 1, 2024

Have you ever experienced that nagging, persistent pain in your back or neck that just won't seem to go away? Or perhaps you have the same experience with shoulder, elbow, hip, or knee pain. Well, you're not alone. Many of us have dealt with this type of pain at some point in our lives. But have you ever wondered what might be causing it? There are many causes, but the following is mainly what we here at MVMT Physical Therapy treat.

Enter radiculopathy. It's a bit of a mouthful, but understanding this condition could be the key to unlocking relief from that pesky pain. Radiculopathy is essentially a fancy term for when the nerves in your spine get irritated or compressed, usually due to things like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or even just wear and tear over time.

Radiculopathy refers to a condition where there is compression, irritation, or inflammation of a spinal nerve root, typically in the spinal column. This compression can lead to pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the areas of the body supplied by the affected nerve root. Radiculopathy often occurs due to conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. In layman's terms, this can be referred to as "sciatica," but in most cases, it's radiculopathy. 

So, what does this mean for you? Well, picture this: your spine is like a superhighway for nerves, carrying messages back and forth between your brain and the rest of your body. When something puts a squeeze on those nerves (like a roadblock), it can send signals shooting down your arms or legs, causing pain, numbness, or tingling sensations, and it can cause weakness. That's radiculopathy at work.

But fear not! Understanding radiculopathy means you're one step closer to finding relief. Whether it's through gentle exercises, physical therapy, or even minimally invasive procedures, there are plenty of options out there to help ease your discomfort and get you back to feeling like your old self again.

So, the next time you find yourself wincing from that twinge in your back or neck, remember: it might just be radiculopathy trying to get your attention. Armed with that knowledge, you can take the first steps toward reclaiming a life free from pain.

However, sometimes you can have leg or leg pain/stiffness/weakness without having lower back or neck pain. How does this work? It comes down to how the nerve involved innervates the rest of the body - specifically dermatomes and myotomes.

Dermatomes are specific skin regions innervated by sensory fibers from a single spinal nerve root. Myotomes are specific groups of muscles that are innervated by a single spinal nerve root. Both myotomes and dermatomes are organized in a segmental pattern corresponding to specific spinal cord levels.

In the human body, there are 31 pairs of spinal nerves, each arising from a specific segment of the spinal cord. Each spinal nerve branches out into smaller nerves that supply sensation and motor control to specific regions of the body. The dermatomes cover the entire body surface, except for areas such as the face, which are innervated by cranial nerves rather than spinal nerves. The myotomes are arranged in a segmental pattern, with each myotome corresponding to a specific level of the spinal cord. For example, the muscles innervated by the C5 spinal nerve root constitute the C5 myotome, while the muscles innervated by the L5 spinal nerve root constitute the L5 myotome.

Assessment of myotomes is often used in clinical settings to evaluate the function of specific spinal nerve roots and to identify potential neurological issues or injuries. Testing the strength and movement of muscles associated with each myotome can help diagnose conditions such as nerve compression, spinal cord injury, or peripheral nerve damage. 

Assessment of dermatomes is important in clinical practice for diagnosing and localizing neurological conditions affecting sensation. By testing the sensory function in different dermatomal areas, healthcare providers can identify abnormalities such as nerve compression, spinal cord injury, or peripheral nerve damage.

In summary, dermatomes are specific zones of skin innervated by sensory fibers from individual spinal nerve roots, and they play a crucial role in assessing sensory function and diagnosing neurological disorders. This is why you can have radiculopathy, but only have symptoms further down into the extremity. 

How Pain Can Move
MVMT Physical Therapy Mobility Class

Mobility and Flexibility Class

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