Ulnar nerve roots are the location where nerves branch off the spinal cord between the C7 and T1 vertebrae of the cervical (neck) and thoracic (middle back) spine segments, respectively. These nerves are noteworthy because they extend from the spinal cord to the fingertips and include the region near the elbow known as the “funny bone.”
The ulnar nerve roots, like the other nerve roots in the cervical and thoracic spine, originate in the spinal cord and extend into the body through openings in the vertebrae called foramina. The fact that each nerve root is so close to the moving parts of the spine (such as vertebrae and intervertebral discs) also makes nerve compression a relatively common and frustrating problem for many people, often leading to a number of neurological symptoms in the limbs.
The ulnar nerve roots are responsible for facilitating the flow of signals between the brain and the arms. To accomplish this, the brain sends messages down the spinal cord, through the nerve root and along the ulnar nerve – and back again – practically instantaneously. Specifically, the ulnar nerve extends from the spinal cord through the arm, forearm, palm and into the little finger. But what makes the ulnar nerve unique is that it is the largest nerve in the body that has an unprotected spot – the funny bone. This section of the nerve is sandwiched between skin and bone near the elbow which leaves it prone to being hit.
However, sheer clumsiness isn’t the only thing that can send painful signals up the nerve. The ulnar nerve roots also have a tendency to become compressed as a symptom of spine deterioration. This nerve compression is typically what patients feel when they are experiencing neck or back pain, traveling pain radiating along the ulnar nerve, numbness or tingling in the arms, or even unexpected muscle weakness. These symptoms, known as radiculopathy, can be traced to a number of sources, but the most common causes include:
- Herniated discs
- Spinal stenosis
- Facet disease
- Normal aging
If you are experiencing nerve compression of one of your ulnar nerve roots and you are considering treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to hear about your options, including minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures. These advanced procedures are effective alternatives to intrusive open back surgery and may be able to provide the pain relief that you require. Contact us today to learn more, and to receive a review of your MRI or CT scan.