Median nerve roots
The median nerve roots are the four 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.
Roots C6, C7, C8 and 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. Brachial plexus nerve fibers proceed through the neck, armpit and arm.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Median nerve 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 frustrating, painful symptoms in the affected hand. Symptoms of CTS commonly manifest in the palm, hand and forearm and can include:
- Sharp, shooting pains
- Paresthesia, which is the “pins and needles” sensation associated with a limb that has “fallen asleep”
- Significant decrease in grip strength
- Weakness in the thumb and first three fingers (not the pinky)
- Atrophy (weakness) of thenar muscles (muscles in the lower palm of the hand and at the base of the thumb) which are stimulated by the median nerve
Bear in mind that 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 hasty, incorrect CTS diagnoses, which may lead to unproductive, or even counterproductive, therapy regimens.
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
When you speak with your physician 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.
If you receive a CTS diagnosis, your physician will probably start you off with a nonsurgical, conservative treatment plan. This regimen could include pain medication, physical therapy, extended rest and more. If this routine of conservative therapies fails to provide you with enough relief and tests show nerve root compression in the spine, your physician may recommend 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 pain. Our minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedures, treat the root cause of nerve compression without the increased risks of infection and complication associated with traditional open spine surgery.