Conservative management for lumbar radiculopathy based on the stage of the disorder: a Delphi study

Erik Thoomes, Deborah Falla, Joshua A Cleland, César Fernández-de-Las-Peñas, Alessio Gallina, Marloes de Graaf

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PURPOSE: Conservative management of lumbar radiculopathy (LR) is the first treatment option. To date, systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines have not considered the most appropriate timing of management. This study aimed to establish consensus on effective conservative treatment modalities across different stages (i.e., acute, sub-acute, or chronic) of LR.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Through an iterative multistage Delphi process, experts rated agreement with proposed treatment modalities across stages of LR and could suggest additional treatment modalities. The agreement was measured using a 5-point Likert scale. Descriptive statistics were used to measure agreement (median, interquartile ranges, and percentage of agreement). Consensus criteria were defined a priori for each round.

RESULTS: Fourteen panelists produced a consensus list of effective treatment modalities across stages of LR. Acute stage management should focus on providing patients with information about the condition including pain education, individualized physical activity, and directional preference exercises, supported with NSAIDs. In the sub-acute stage, strength training and neurodynamic mobilization could be added and transforaminal/epidural injections considered. In the chronic stage, spinal manipulative therapy, specific exercise, and function-specific physical training should be combined with individualized vocational, ergonomic and postural advice.

CONCLUSIONS: Experts agree effectiveness of interventions differs through the evolution of LR.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONTo date clinical guideline for conservative management of lumbar radiculopathy do not consider the evolution of the condition.Acute stage management of lumbar radiculopathy should focus on providing information about the condition and support individualized physical activity with pain medication.Sub-acute management should add neurodynamic mobilization to strength training, while transforaminal and/or epidural injections could be considered.Chronic stage management should consider spinal manipulative therapy and focus on restoring personalized functional capacity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Early online date7 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2022


  • Delphi procedure
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • conservative management
  • expert opinion
  • sciatica


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