What is the lumbosacral radicular syndrome? My brother emailed me that he's having surgery for this problem. What are the chances he'll recover?
Lumbosacral refers to the low back area where the lumbar spine meets the sacrum. Radicular indicates that the low back pain travels into the buttock and/or down the leg because of pressure on the nerve root as it leaves the spinal canal.

Syndrome tells us that there is a group of symptoms. Most patients with this problem have pain, numbness, and tingling. If the condition lasts a long time, then muscle weakness and wasting can also occur.

The cause of the problem is often a disc pressing on the nerve root. Bone spurs from arthritis can also cause it in some patients. A tumor or other space-occupying lesion can also cause lumbosacral radicular syndrome. In about 80 per cent of the cases, the symptoms go away without treatment or with conservative care. The remaining 20 per cent usually need surgery. The disc material is taken out. Sometimes bone around the nerve root is also removed. This is called decompression surgery.

Patients who do not get better either on their own or with surgery can end up with chronic pain and disability. This affects about 30 per cent of the people in this category. There's some evidence to suggest attitude and other psychologic factors may make a difference.

For example, patients who are afraid to move because they might re-injure themselves tend to have more disability and pain after surgery. The same is true for patients who are pessimists who expect the worst. Having a positive attitude will go a long way toward a good recovery.