How does nerve root compression cause pain and other symptoms?

Nerve root compression pain, or radiculopathy, can severely disrupt your life — taking you away from loved ones or being able to do simple tasks around the house. While this can be frustrating to live with, there are treatment options that can help you manage these symptoms. An often overlooked part of the process is educating yourself as a patient. By having a better understanding of nerve root compression pain, you can be more engaged with your doctor and have a better chance of developing an effective treatment plan.

How a compressed nerve root causes pain

The primary role of the spinal column is to hold the body upright while protecting the spinal cord as it sends information between the brain and the rest of the body. The nerve roots are the points where the nerves branch off the spinal cord on both sides, exiting out small openings between the vertebrae called foramina.

Nerve root compression pain arises because an issue like a bone spur or herniated disc makes contact with the nerve root and interferes with the signals transmitted between the brain and the rest of the body. The location of symptoms depends on the segment of the spine affected, with the upper and lower areas being most vulnerable:

  • Nerve root compression occurring in the cervical (upper) region, causes pain and other symptoms to travel to the neck, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
  • Nerve root compression in the lumbar (lower) region causes pain and other symptoms to be felt in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, calves, feet and toes.

Treatment methods for nerve root compression

Treatments for nerve root compression pain first attempt to help you manage pain while improving range of motion. Your doctor will usually start you with a conservative treatment plan that can include a combination of medication, physical therapy, or rest. If this treatment plan does not produce relief in weeks or months, surgery will usually then be considered.

In these situations, there are two main approaches: traditional open neck or back surgery, or minimally invasive procedures, such as those performed at Laser Spine Institute. The minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery performed by the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute are often the clinically appropriate surgical first choice compared to traditional open back procedures.^ Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief through our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization surgeries.

To learn more and to request a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today.