Radiculopathy comes from the Latin word, radix for root and the Greek word pathos for suffering. In neurosurgery, radiculopathy refers to pain coming from the nerves that branch from the spinal cord, which branch out like the roots of a plant.

The nerves most affected are situated at the joints of the spine. These nerves can be divided between sensory nerves and motor nerves. Sensory nerves send information to the brain via spinal chord and motor nerves send signals to the muscles for movement.

Radiculopathy is categorized by which part of the spine the radiculopathy occurs. Therefore one can have cervical radiculopathy, thoacic radiculopathy and lumbar radiculopathy. Lumbar radiculopathy is also known as sciatica.

Lumbar radiculopathy or sciatica is accompanied by a history of localized low back aching and/or a "popping" sensation accompanied by numbness and tingling. The pain increases with movements. For example, when the patient lifts a leg, the pain increases, when lumbar radiculopathy is present.

EMGs (electromyograms) and NCV (nerve conduction velocity) of the lower extremities can be used to detect nerve irritation and to isolate the affected nerves. Simple observations can also isolate the problem area. For example, weakness in the triceps and wrists and numbness in the middle finger indicates a problem in C7 level.

The underlying cause of radiculopathy can be several things ranging from a hard blow to the back, cancer and degenerative disc disease. Treatment, of course, depends on the underlying cause.