C1 – C8 nerve roots overview

The cervical (upper) spine is made of seven vertebrae, numbered as the C1 – C7 vertebrae. However although there are seven vertebrae, there are eight cervical nerve roots, labeled C1 – C8. The cervical nerve roots exit above the corresponding vertebrae, with the C8 nerve root exiting beneath the C7 vertebrae. These eight nerve roots are key to the flow of sensory and motor information in the upper body.

Function of the C1 – C8 nerve roots

Exiting through small openings between the vertebrae, these paired nerve structures branch off the upper spinal cord before traveling out to the body. Nerves are responsible for functions like muscle control, pain reception and breathing, which is why interference of or damage to nervous tissue can be so debilitating to patients who experience it.

Because they are situated near the vertebrae and other parts of spinal anatomy, the cervical nerve roots are at a heightened risk for compression related to degenerative spine conditions.

Causes of C1 – C8 nerve root compression

If one of the C1 – C8 nerve roots is interfered with or compressed, a number of symptoms can develop — both locally and along the nerve to other parts of the body. This compression results from displaced spinal anatomy narrowing the nerve passages in the spine, potentially putting pressure on or irritating the nerve roots. This compression can be caused by a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Spinal stenosis, or narrowing

These common conditions all can lead to varying degrees of cervical nerve compression, which, depending on the location of the nerve roots, can lead to many symptoms, including:

  • Localized neck pain
  • Pain radiating along a nerve
  • Unexpected muscle weakness in the shoulders, elbows and wrists
  • Numbness and tingling in the arms, hands and fingers

Treatment for C1 – C8 nerve compression

Treatment for compression of any of the C1 – C8 nerve roots usually begins with conservative treatment. Anti-inflammatory medication, heat and ice therapy and low-impact exercises like yoga are all effective options for many people.

If your pain continues despite several weeks or months of this treatment plan, spine surgery may be recommended. The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck surgery.^ Because our procedures are performed in an outpatient surgery center, our patients have a lower risk of infection than patients who opt for hospital-based traditional open neck surgery. To relieve the pressure on a cervical nerve root, our surgeons may recommend a minimally invasive decompression or minimally invasive stabilization procedure. Contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information.

To help you find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, we are pleased to offer you a no-cost MRI or CT scan review.*