Medical Care for Radiating Pain

Radiating pain spreads outward from one area, and is associated with nerve root compression. It some cases, pain is not experienced at the site of compression, but rather where sensitivity is picked up by the root. A sciatica patient, for example, might experience leg pain while the actual compressed root causes no trouble at all. The pain itself travels, or ‘radiates’ by following the compressed nerve’s pathway. Other symptoms common to radiating pain include sensitivity, weakness, or changes in reflexes.

Nerve root compression has many causes. An abbreviated list would include sciatica; disc problems; arthritis; injury; inflammation; scar tissue; and tendonitis. In order to treat radiating pain, the cause of the condition must be determined first.

Physiatry and Radiating Pain

Medical specialists trained in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Physiatrists) are experts in diagnosing and treating the conditions that cause radiating pain. A Physiatrist uses non-surgical rehabilitation and pain management practices to help patients reduce pain and restore movement. A Physiatrist is a particularly good option for patients looking for ways to rehabilitate without surgery.

As stated above, the treatment for radiating pain is entirely focused on the source of the pain, whether it is from disc problems, sciatica, or other conditions. Physiatrists usually create a pain management plan that works with the most conservative, least invasive treatment options first (such as acupuncture or spinal decompression). When these options are exhausted and pain persists, minimally invasive procedures such as Epidural Steroid Injections may be used.

Medical treatment for conditions that lead to radiating pain may include any of the following:

• Physical Therapy;

• Spinal Decompression;

• Acupuncture;

• Spinal Manipulation;

• Epidural Steroid Injections: This type of injection is a minimally invasive procedure that reduces inflammation (and therefore radiating pain) in the spinal nerves. Epidural Steroid Injections deliver a long-lasting corticosteroid and an anesthetic numbing agent to the spinal nerve through the epidural space (the area between the protective covering of the vertebrae and spinal cord);

• Facet Joint Injections: Inflammation that causes compression of the nerves may be relieved with Facet Joint Injections, which deliver a steroid medication to the joints of the spine;

• Sacroiliac Joint Injections: Injection of a long-lasting steroid in the sacroiliac joint reduces pain and inflammation in the lower back, which can resolve radiating pain in the lower extremities;

• Peripheral Joint Injections: Inflammation of the joints of the body can also cause radiating pain. Joint injections can bring relief from radiating pain triggered by tendonitis or arthritis (among other conditions);

• Trigger Point Injections: Injections of a local anesthetic medication and/or cortisone into trigger points—areas of intense muscle spasm (also known as Myofascial pain)—can reduce symptoms; and/or

• Sympathetic Blocks: A local anesthetic is injected in the sympathetic nerve tissue located on either side of the spine. This purpose of this treatment is to block the nerves in order to alleviate radiating pain.

Imaging Technology and Guided Injections

The physicians at Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation use on-site imaging technology to perform the most accurate and effective injections possible. Both Fluoroscopy and Ultrasound are used to view the size, shape, and structure of the musculoskeletal system in order to guide injections.

Fluoroscopy uses an intermittent x-ray to produce live, moving images of affected body parts. This type of imaging technology may be used to help guide Epidural Steroid Injections. Ultrasound is used primarily for diagnosis, although it is also used to guide certain types of injections (such as Trigger Point Injections).

Medical Services for Radiating Pain at Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation

To learn more about treatments for specific conditions that cause radiating pain, please visit any of the pages linked below:

Neck and Back Disc Conditions



Neck Pain

Back Pain

Contact our Monmouth & Ocean County offices if you are experiencing radiating pain to learn more about pain management and rehabilitation in our Shrewsbury, Freehold, Wall, & Lacey NJ office.

How it is different from reffered pain, should not be confused with
Not all types of pain felt in the arms or legs come from radiated pain. Sometimes, back pain itself causes a reflex pain at these sites without the presence of nerve compression. In this case, pain is due to a reflex process of the spinal cord, and not to nerve compression. It is called “referred” pain and does not specifically follow any nerve pathway, nor is it accompanied by signs of compression.
Referred pain is of no importance and does not require any treatment changes. However, radiated pain transmits nerve compression and, therefore, a certain degree of neurologic suffering. The most generally accepted criterion is that if radiated pain worsens or is maintained for more than 6 weeks with signs of root compression, treatment should be changed and the possibility of surgery should be evaluated, provided there is certainty about what is compressing the nerve.