Nerve roots — conditions affecting them and the treatment options available

Nerve roots are parts of the nerve pathways that branch off the spinal cord in pairs. These structures are part of the central and peripheral nervous system and are responsible for transmitting signals from the brain to the extremities of the body, such as the hands and feet.

Exiting the spinal column through spaces between the vertebrae, nerve roots are present at every segment of the spine. If any of the nerve roots become irritated or compressed by a spine condition, a number of painful symptoms can develop. These symptoms can travel from the spine to other areas of the body.

Conditions that may cause nerve root compression

The spinal cord and the brain make up the central nervous system. This complicated system is responsible for coordinating all of the activity of the body, with motor and sensory function managed through nerve pathways.

The spinal cord extends from the brain and travels down into the lumbar (lower) spine before it branches off into various nerves in the lower half of the body. At every level of the spine, nerve roots exit the spinal cord through spaces called foramina, which are located between each vertebra.

Because of their proximity to the vertebrae and discs between them, spinal nerve roots are prone to compression from a variety of spinal problems, such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease. Natural breakdown of spinal discs that can lead to loss of height, bulging or herniation that can all cause nerve compression.
  • Facet disease. The deterioration of joints causes inflammation and spinal misalignment.
  • Spinal stenosis. The narrowing of the spinal canal due to a range of spine conditions can lead to nerve root compression.
  • Injury. Traumatic and/or sudden injury can lead to the pinching of a nerve root.

Treatment for nerve root compression

When nerve roots are compressed or pinched, a number of pain-related symptoms may be experienced, including:

  • Chronic pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Burning sensation

If you are experiencing these symptoms and they’ve persisted for more than a few days, visit your doctor to diagnose the cause of your pain.

In many cases, these aches and pains can be managed with conservative nonsurgical treatment over several weeks and months. However, surgery can start to become an option if you and your doctor decide that conservative treatments have been exhausted and your quality of life continues to be affected. If you are in this situation, contact the team at Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive spine surgery as an alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery.

We can help you receive a free MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for our minimally invasive spine procedures.