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 from the cervical spine in the neck to the coccyx in the tail bone (although there is only a single exiting nerve root at the coccyx). Should 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 nerve roots in the spinal cord, along with 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 first or second vertebrae of the lumbar spine (lower back) 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 susceptible to compression from a variety of spinal problems, such as:
- Degenerative disc disease — Discs become thinned, herniated or protruded, causing nerve compression.
- Facet disease — The deterioration of joints causes inflammation and spinal misalignment.
- Spinal stenosis — The narrowing of the spinal canal can lead to nerve root compression.
- Injury — Traumatic and/or sudden injury can lead to the pinching of a nerve root.
- Other degenerative spine conditions
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
- Burning sensation
If you are experiencing these symptoms for a few weeks without any relief, visit your physician to diagnose the cause of your pain.
In many cases, these aches and pains can be managed with conservative, nonsurgical treatment over several months. If, however, your pain persists, 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.
Contact us for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine procedures.