What are ulnar nerve roots?

The ulnar nerve roots are where nerves branch off the spinal cord between the C7 and T1 vertebrae of the cervical (neck) and thoracic (middle back) spine segments, respectively. These nerves are noteworthy because they extend from the spinal cord to the fingertips and include the region near the elbow commonly referred to as the funny bone. Read on to learn about the role of the ulnar nerve roots as well as the treatment options for conditions that cause ulnar nerve damage or compression.

Function of the ulnar nerve roots

The ulnar nerve roots, like the other nerve roots in the cervical and thoracic spine, originate in the spinal cord and extend into the body through openings in the vertebrae called foramina. These specific nerve roots live close to the vertebrae and discs of the spine, making nerve compression a relatively common occurrence as degenerative spine conditions develop with age.

The ulnar nerve roots help facilitate the flow of signals between the brain and the arms. To accomplish this, the brain sends messages down the spinal cord, through the nerve root then along the ulnar nerve and back again almost instantaneously. Specifically, the ulnar nerve extends from the spinal cord through the arm, forearm, hand and into the little finger. But what makes the ulnar nerve unique is that it is the largest nerve in the body that has an unprotected spot — the funny bone.

Symptoms of ulnar nerve root compression

The ulnar nerve roots can become compressed as a symptom of spine deterioration. This nerve compression is typically what patients feel when they are experiencing neck or back pain, radiating pain along the ulnar nerve, numbness or tingling in the arms or unexpected muscle weakness.

These symptoms, known as radiculopathy, can be traced to a number of sources, including spinal degeneration and traumatic injury, as well as the following conditions:

  • Herniated discs
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Facet disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spurs

Treatment options for ulnar nerve root compression

If you are experiencing nerve compression of one of your ulnar nerve roots and are considering treatment, your doctor may recommend seeing if you are a candidate for spine surgery after a round of conservative treatments such as physical therapy, pain medications, chiropractic care, range-of-motion exercises and acupuncture have been exhausted.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck and back surgery and allow our patients to benefit from no lengthy recovery as well as a lower risk of complication. ^ Our outpatient procedures are performed through muscle-sparing techniques and a small incision in order to alleviate your ulnar nerve root compression with a lower risk of complication as opposed to traditional open back surgery.

To help treat most causes of nerve compression, our board-certified surgeons+ are able to perform minimally invasive decompression or a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Many of our patients are recommended a decompression procedure to relieve pressure on a nerve root, though some patients with severe cases require a stabilization procedure to relieve nerve compression and regain stability in the spine.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn more about our minimally invasive outpatient procedures. We can conduct a no-cost MRI review* to better diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment option that will help get you back to your daily routine.