Cervical spine nerve roots

The spine is divided into three sections: the cervical spine (neck), the thoracic spine (middle back) and the lumbar spine (lower back). Many spine conditions develop in either the cervical spine or the lumbar spine because those are the two sections that offer movement and support to the body and head. The thoracic spine acts as stabilization for the body. When a spine condition develops in the cervical spine, one of the nerve roots in the spinal canal could be impacted, creating chronic and radiating pain in the head, neck and face.

The cervical spine is comprised of seven vertebrae (small bones) that extend from the base of the skill 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 input sensation and perception stimuli to the brain.

Therefore, when one of these nerve roots in the cervical spinal canal is compressed, a patient may experience pain at the site of the nerve root in the neck and pain along the message path of the nerve root into the head, arms and/or face. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your physician to determine the cause of your pain. Many times, spine conditions in the cervical spine can impact a nerve root, resulting in your 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. The most common conditions that develop in the cervical spine include:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis — a connective tissue disease in which the vertebrae fuse into one long bone. The fusion process usually begins in the sacroiliac joints. The lumbar spine is usually affected second, and the cervical spine third; then the remaining spine slowly fuses. Symptoms include stiffness and pain.
  • Myelopathy — myelin is the covering of nerves and serves to assist transmission of impulses and insulate one neuron from others. Damage to myelin is called a myelopathy. A myelopathy may be caused by degenerative disorders associated with spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal column that pinches surrounding nerves. Symptoms range from slight difficulty while walking to the complete inability to move.
  • Spondylolysis — the pars interarticularis (connecting bones between the vertebrae) are malformed due to birth defect or traumatic fracture injury. 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. Spondylolysis may lead to spondylolisthesis and spinal canal narrowing with spine nerve roots compression. Neck pain, loss of arm strength and difficulty walking are common symptoms.
  • Whiplash — a car accident hyperextends the neck. Results are bulging, ruptured or torn intervertebral cervical 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 physician about the treatment options available to you. Many patients find effective pain relief through conservative methods of treatment, such as physical therapy, chiropractic care and pain medication. The purpose of these therapies is to treat your pain and symptoms, and sometimes to realign the spine to relieve pressure on the nerve root.

While many cases of spine conditions respond well to conservative therapies, some more severely impacted nerves may need to be treated with spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck surgery. Our minimally invasive procedures offer a 96 patient satisfaction score^ and a shorter recovery time^ than traditional open neck surgery.

To learn more about your spine condition and the treatment options available to you, please contact our Care Team. We are here to help guide you through your journey to wellness.