The dura mater, also referred to as simply the dura, is one of three layers that make up the meninges, which is a membrane system that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
As the outermost layer of the three, the dura mater covers the arachnoid mater, which in turn covers the pia mater. “Dura mater” literally means “hard mother” or “tough mother” in Latin, aptly named because this is a tough, inflexible layer of tissue.
The three layers of the meninges reside between the skull and the brain, as well as between the spinal canal and the spinal cord. As such, the meninges can be thought of as a back-up shield for the central nervous system, should anything damage the other structures protecting it.
While the dura mater surrounding the brain contains two layers, the spinal dura contains only one layer. It assists in a variety of roles, including:
- Carrying blood from the brain back to the heart
- Supporting the dural sinuses, or the channels found between the dura mater and the brain
- Holding in cerebrospinal fluid and blood
The spinal dura mater also forms tubes, or sleeves, that envelop the nerve roots as they exit the spinal column. Any pressure or damage to the spinal dura can, in turn, affect the spinal nerve roots.
To exit the spinal column, nerve roots go through the foramina – or the open spaces between intervertebral discs – and then the nerves travel to various areas in the body. As it passes through a foramen, a spinal nerve root becomes particularly vulnerable to pressure if the foramen is narrowed by a spinal condition, such as a herniated disc or bone spur.
Once a physician has diagnosed you with an issue that’s causing pressure on your spinal nerve roots, he or she may recommend physical therapy, steroidal injections or pain medication. If these traditional treatments prove ineffective, contact us at Laser Spine Institute for the chance to live your life without back and neck pain.