Relationship between median nerve roots and carpal tunnel syndrome

The median nerve roots are the five nerve roots located in the lower cervical (neck) and upper thoracic (middle back) segments of your spine. This group of nerve roots eventually forms what is more correctly termed the median nerve, which is the only nerve that passes through the carpal tunnel. Roots C5, C6, C7, C8 and the T1 branch from your spinal cord, pass through the spinal foramina (spaces between vertebrae through which nerves travel) and form a union known as the brachial plexus, which proceed through the neck, armpit and arm. Read on to learn about how the median nerve roots affect carpal tunnel syndrome, along with the treatment options available for this painful condition.

How does the median nerve root lead to carpal tunnel syndrome?

Median nerve root compression is the culprit behind the sensory pain and motor impairments collectively known as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The carpal tunnel is a passageway in the wrist that contains the median nerve and tendons at the base of the hand.

Several issues can make the carpal tunnel space too small, such as thickening tendons, arthritis, obesity or bone spurs. Excess tissues can press on the median nerve and cause a host of painful symptoms in the affected hand. Symptoms of CTS caused by median nerve compression commonly manifest in the palm, hand and forearm and can include:

  • Sharp or shooting pains that may extend up to the elbow
  • Paresthesia, which is a pins and needles sensation associated with a limb that has fallen asleep
  • Numbness, weakness or tingling in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers
  • Significant decrease in grip strength and dexterity
  • Thenar atrophy (wasting away of the muscles in the lower palm of the hand and at the base of the thumb) which are stimulated by the median nerve

Median nerve compression may occur at several adjacent sites simultaneously in the arms and hands. Improper identification of the precise point or points of a pinched median nerve could produce a hasty and incorrect CTS diagnoses, which may lead to unproductive, or even counterproductive, therapy regimens.

Therefore, it is crucial to speak with your doctor about the possibility that you may be suffering from CTS or compression of the median nerve roots. He or she will likely perform a full physical exam, ask you about the severity of your symptoms and conduct an MRI or CT scan.

Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

If you receive a CTS diagnosis, your physician will probably start you off with a conservative treatment plan. This regimen could include pain medication, physical therapy and strengthening exercises. If conservative therapies fail to provide you with enough relief and tests show nerve root compression in the spine, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for spine surgery.

If this is the case, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery that has already helped more than 75,000 people find relief from chronic neck or back conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Our procedures are performed without the increased risks of infection and complication associated with traditional open spine surgery by using a small, muscle-sparing, incision that results in no lengthy recovery.^

At Laser Spine Institute, our board-certified surgeons+ are able to perform a minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedure, in order to treat the root cause of median nerve compression. This procedure is done with less surgical blood loss and a reduced risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

Reach out to Laser Spine Institute for your no-cost MRI review* and for more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery.