The eight nerve roots in the neck, known also as the C1-C8 nerve roots, are integral structures in the flow of information in the upper body. Situated among the seven vertebrae in the cervical spine (C1-C7 vertebrae), these paired nerve structures branch off the upper spinal cord before traversing throughout the rest of the body. And, because the cervical nerves are responsible for such integral functions as muscle control, pain reception and breathing, the importance of these structures working correctly cannot be overstated. The problem is that the cervical nerve roots are at a heightened risk for damage because of the somewhat regular deterioration that occurs in the neck – deterioration which is the natural result of the neck’s flexibility and constant burden of supporting the head. Not surprisingly, then, neck pain and other symptoms are common afflictions of cervical nerve root compression.
In a regularly functioning body, the brain transmits signals along the spinal cord, through the cervical nerve roots, and along the adjoining nerve infrastructure throughout the neck and arms. However, in the event that one of the C1-C8 nerve roots is interfered with, a number of symptoms can present – both locally and along the nerve to other parts of the body. This compression results from another piece of tissue impinging, pinching or generally irritating the nerve structure. This compression can be caused by a variety of sources, such as:
- Deterioration of the cervical spine caused by the normal aging process
- Herniated, ruptured, protruded, prolapsed, swollen, collapsed or bulging intervertebral discs
- Facet disease or other disorders affecting the function of the vertebral joints
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal
- And more
These common conditions all can lead to varying degrees of compression, which, depending on the location of the nerve roots, can lead to many unique symptoms, including:
- Localized neck pain
- Pain radiating along a nerve
- Unexpected muscle weakness in the shoulders, elbows and wrists
- Numbness and tingling in the arms, hands and fingers
Treatment of compressed C1-C8 nerve roots usually only requires a conservative course of action. Anti-inflammatory medication, heat and ice therapy and low-impact exercises like yoga are all effective treatments for certain individuals. In the event that pain persists through this treatment plan, decompression surgery may be considered to alleviate a patient’s pain. If this is your situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to hear about minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures as a gentle alternative to open back surgery.