Exiting nerve root conditions and treatments

Exiting nerve roots refer to the point where nerves branch off the spinal cord, exit the spinal column and start to form the peripheral nervous system. The spinal vertebrae have narrow holes, called foramina, where the nerves travel out. Since each foramen is so narrow to begin with, spine conditions such as arthritis and degenerative disc disease can cause additional narrowing to put pressure on the exiting nerve roots, resulting in the painful symptoms described below.

If you have been dealing with debilitating neck or back pain potentially related to exiting nerve roots, learning about the specific symptoms and treatment options can help you and your primary care doctor develop a course of treatment that can get you back to a more acceptable quality of life.

Symptoms of exiting nerve root compression

The narrowing of exiting nerve roots, called foraminal stenosis, happens as part of the natural aging process. Deterioration from everyday activity causes joint linings to wear out and discs to lose their shape. This can result in displaced spinal anatomy, like a herniated disc or an arthritic bone spur, constricting the foramen and causing painful nerve compression. In addition to localized neck and back pain, compression of exiting nerve roots can cause symptoms of shooting pain, tingling and numbness to radiate out to the extremities.

The location of symptoms depends on the region of the spine where exiting nerve root compression occurs:

  • Cervical. This is the upper region of the spine, traveling through the neck. Foraminal stenosis occurring in this location can affect the shoulders, arms and hands and causes radiating pain around this area.
  • Thoracic. This is the middle region of the spine that is attached to the ribcage and is less prone to nerve compression because of its stability. If symptoms do occur in this location, they usually travel to the chest and abdomen.
  • Lumbar. The lower back is a common source of exiting nerve root compression because it is the weight bearing portion of the spine and must be able to bend and flex. Radiating symptoms in this location travel into the hips, buttocks and legs.

Treating exiting nerve root compression

Your primary care physician should be able to diagnose the source of symptoms with an MRI or CT scan. In many cases, a conservative course of treatments, including cortisone injections, physical therapy, low-impact exercises, chiropractic care and pain medication is effective for getting meaningful pain relief for exiting nerve root compression. However, surgery becomes an option when conservative therapies have been exhausted without improvement in symptoms.

If you are considering surgery, but are concerned about some of the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open back surgery, including scarring, hospital-based infections and a long rehabilitation period, contact Laser Spine Institute. We offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures, which only have a 0.55 percent infection rate^ and are performed on an outpatient basis. Since 2005, we have been able to help more than 75,000 patients find relief from their chronic neck or back conditions.

At Laser Spine Institute, we perform minimally invasive spine surgery that uses a less than 1-inch, muscle-sparing incision, resulting in no lengthy recovery^ and less scarring than traditional procedures. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform our minimally invasive spine surgery in state-of-the-art facilities that are built around patient-centered care.

Reach out to our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient procedures that may help you get your life back from exiting nerve root compression.