Lumbar radicular pain

Aust Fam Physician. 2004 Jun;33(6):409-12.


Background: Radicular pain is caused by irritation of the sensory root or dorsal root ganglion of a spinal nerve. The irritation causes ectopic nerve impulses perceived as pain in the distribution of the axon. The pathophysiology is more than just mass effect: it is a combination of compression sensitising the nerve root to mechanical stimulation, stretching, and a chemically mediated noncellular inflammatory reaction.

Objective: This article discusses the clinical features, assessment and management of lumbar radicular pain (LRP).

Discussion: Lumbar radicular pain is sharp, shooting or lancinating, and is typically felt as a narrow band of pain down the length of the leg, both superficially and deep. It may be associated with radiculopathy (objective sensory and/or motor dysfunction as a result of conduction block) and may coexist with spinal or somatic referred pain. In more than 50% of cases, LRP settles with simple analgesics. Significant and lasting pain relief can be achieved with transforaminal epidural steroid injection. Surgery is indicated for those patients with progressive neurological deficits or severe LRP refractory to conservative measures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrophysiology
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Intervertebral Disc Chemolysis
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Sciatica / diagnosis*
  • Sciatica / physiopathology
  • Sciatica / therapy*
  • Steroids / administration & dosage


  • Steroids