Cervical spine nerve roots

The spine is divided into three sections: the cervical (upper), thoracic (middle) and the lumbar (lower). Many spine conditions develop in either the cervical spine or the lumbar spine because they support body weight while being flexible enough for movement. When a spine condition develops in the cervical region, the cervical nerve roots could be impacted, creating chronic and radiating pain in the head, neck and face.

The cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae that extend from the base of the skull down to the top of the thoracic spine, which is usually at the bottom of the neck where the shoulders begin to form. There are eight pairs of nerve roots in the spinal canal near the cervical spine. The brain uses these nerve roots to send motor signals down the spinal cord to enable movements of the neck, upper chest, shoulders and arms. Sensory information is carried in the opposite direction to deliver sensation and perception stimuli back to the brain.

When a cervical nerve root is compressed or irritated, people can experience pain both locally and along the length of the nerve. Radiating symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the shoulders, arms and hands. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your doctor to determine the cause of your pain. Many times, spine conditions in the cervical spine can put pressure on a nerve root, resulting in pain and discomfort.

Spine conditions that affect the cervical spine nerve roots

Because of the constant movement in the neck and the support of the head, the cervical spine is prone to develop several types of spine conditions. Some common conditions that develop in the cervical spine include:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis. This is a connective tissue disease in which the vertebrae, including the cervical vertebrae, can potentially fuse together.
  • Spondylolysis. This is a defect or fracture affecting the pars interarticularis that helps to form vertebral joint. Spondylolysis most often occurs in the lower lumbar vertebra. However, as a result of trauma, particularly in high-impact sports, it may occur in the cervical region. Neck pain, loss of arm strength and difficulty walking are common symptoms if this condition affects the cervical nerve roots.
  • Whiplash. This issue occurs when a car accident hyperextends the neck, which can result in bulging, ruptured or torn discs that compress cervical nerve roots. Symptoms include pain and stiffness.

Treatment for cervical spine pain

If you have a spine condition or injury that has impacted a nerve root in the spinal canal, you should consult your doctor about the available treatment options. Many can find effective pain relief through conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, chiropractic care and pain medication. The purpose of these therapies is to treat your pain and symptoms while also taking steps to potentially relieve pressure on the cervical nerve root by improving posture, strengthening supporting muscles and improving alignment.

While many cases of spine conditions respond well to conservative therapies, some more severely affected nerves may need to be treated with spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer an outpatient alternative to traditional open neck surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures offer a patient satisfaction score of 98 and a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open neck surgery.

To learn more about your spine condition and the treatment options available to you, please contact our caring team. Ask for your free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.