Spinal cord and nerve roots — how they relate to spine conditions

The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord. Nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and out to the rest of the body, sending sensory and motor information to and from the brain. The spinal cord and nerve roots are protected by the spinal column, which also supports the upper body.

Years of everyday movement can cause the parts of the spine to wear down, which can potentially compress the spinal cord and/or nerve roots. When this happens, symptoms like pain, tingling and numbness can radiate along the nerve pathway.

Spine conditions that can affect nerves

The parts of the spine — like the vertebrae, joints and discs — work together to support the upper body while being flexible enough for normal movement. Factors like aging, injury, weight and posture can cause the spinal components to wear out, resulting in spine conditions such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This condition involves age-related deterioration of the rubbery discs that cushion the vertebrae, allowing the spine to bend and flex. This leads to more specific conditions like bulging and herniated discs, which can compress the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal arthritis. Osteoarthritis of the spine can occur when the cartilage that lines the joints wears out, resulting in joint inflammation and bone spur growth.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This is vertebral slippage, which can occur when a vertebra slips over the one beneath it, potentially causing nerve compression.

In some cases, these conditions can be present in the spine without causing symptoms. Pain and mobility issues typically occur when the spinal cord and nerve roots become compressed.

Treating compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots

If you think you may be experiencing pain due to nerve root compression, visit your doctor now. In many instances, minor pain can be managed through conservative treatments prescribed by your physician, such as medication, physical therapy or massage.

If your pain persists, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our alternatives to traditional open back surgery. Our minimally invasive surgery is performed on an outpatient basis with a shorter recovery period^ than traditional open spine surgery.

Ask for your free MRI review* to learn if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery.