Exiting nerve roots refer to the termini of nerve root pairs as they exit the spinal column and begin to form the peripheral nervous system. The nerve root is considered to be exiting at the point where it passes through the intervertebral foramina, which are open spaces on either side of the vertebrae that act as neural canals.
The same nomenclature used to identify each vertebra in your spinal column is also used to identify each one of your exiting nerve roots. Since we know certain nerve roots (or groups of nerve roots) are responsible for transmitting specific messages to and from the brain, finding the source of the problem is integral to finding a solution. Here is a short list of some spinal disorders, the localized nerve roots they tend to affect and a cursory symptom summary:
- Sciatica – compression of sciatic nerve; includes the L4, L5, S1, S2 and S3 spine nerve roots; symptoms may include burning pain in the buttock, leg and foot on one side of the body
- Spondylolisthesis – when one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra beneath it (usually between L5 and S1 in children or the L4 and L5 in adults); symptoms may include leg weakness and radiating pain
- Cauda equina syndrome (CES) – extreme compression of nerves in the lower part of the spinal canal; symptoms may include loss of bladder and bowel control; considered a medical emergency that requires immediate attention
If you think you might be experiencing compression of the exiting nerve roots, see your physician right away. He or she can order an MRI or CT scan to pinpoint the source of pain. In most cases, a conservative course of treatment, including cortisone injections, exercise and pain medication, will help you find relief from your discomfort.
Sometimes, even conservative treatments don’t effectively relieve pain and weakness associated with compressed nerve roots in the spine. If you’re considering a spinal operation, the expert medical team at Laser Spine Institute is waiting to tell you about our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures. Using the latest technology, our procedures offer a welcome alternative to the risks and long recovery periods of traditional open spine surgery. Contact us for more information and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.