Traversing Nerve Roots

Traversing nerve roots are a specific type of nerve root that exist at each level of the spine. Often, nerve roots are referred to as paired structures that originate between each vertebra and extend into the body, allowing the free flow of information between the central nervous system and the various nerve endings. However, while two nerves do exist at each disc level, only one actually exits the spine (the exiting nerve root), while the other – the traversing nerve – crosses the intervertebral disc and exits through a canal below at the next level of the spine.

To put it another way, two nerve roots exist between the first and second cervical vertebrae (C1-C2); however, only the exiting nerve root emerges from the spine between C1-C2 to transmit information. The traversing nerve crosses over the disc that separates these vertebrae and becomes the exiting nerve root at the level below between the C2 and C3 vertebrae. From there, the process repeats until only one exiting nerve root exists at the coccyx in the tail bone.

However, the proximity of a traversing nerve root to an intervertebral disc also exacerbates the risk of nerve compression in the event that the discs become damaged or deteriorated. Some common symptoms associated with disc degeneration and the compression of traversing nerve roots include:

  • Chronic neck or back pain
  • Pain that radiates or travels along a nerve
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes
  • Sciatica

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and you are concerned that traversing nerve roots have become compressed in the spinal column, schedule an appointment with a physician. In most cases, these symptoms are relatively minor and can be managed with nonsurgical treatment. In the event that your pain persists and you are considering other options, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about minimally invasive, outpatient spine procedures. The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute use advanced, minimally invasive techniques to help alleviate pressure on spinal nerve roots without the risks associated with major open neck or back surgery. Call today for more information on traversing nerve roots and to request a review of your MRI or CT scan.