Dorsal nerve root

A dorsal nerve root — also known as a posterior nerve root — is a main bundle of nerve fibers that branches off the spinal cord and goes to other areas of the body. Dorsal nerve roots are responsible for carrying signals of sensation (such as feelings of pain and temperature) from the body to the brain. The brain then processes these signals immediately, making you aware of the sensation.

A pair of spinal nerves branches out from each level of the spinal cord, one to the left and one to the right. A left spinal nerve serves the left side of the body and a right spinal nerve serves the right side of the body. There are 31 total pairs of spinal nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord, each one carrying a dorsal nerve root and a ventral nerve root.

Anatomy of the dorsal nerve root

At the innermost base of each spinal nerve root are two sub-roots — the dorsal nerve root and the ventral nerve root — that connect the nerve to the white and gray matter of the spinal cord. The dorsal nerve root receives sensory signals from the body and carries these signals to the brain, while the ventral nerve root sends out signals of movement from the brain to the body.

The dorsal nerve root is important to the function of the nervous system because:

  • It controls pain and temperature sensations.
  • If severed, pinched or constricted, the signals of a dorsal nerve root will be intensified or interrupted. This can cause pain, numbness, or a tingling or heat sensation along the affected nerve.
  • It is extremely vulnerable in the foramina, or openings between the vertebrae where nerve roots travel between the spinal cord and the rest of the body.
  • The foramen is the passageway for the nerves, so any disc damage or bone spurs that constrict this passageway can directly affect the nerve.

Possible causes of dorsal nerve root compression include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Bone spurs

Treating compression of the dorsal nerve root

If your doctor diagnoses you with a condition involving compression of the dorsal nerve root, some conservative treatment options that he or she may recommend are rest, gentle stretching, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy or steroidal injections. These treatments can be effective but they don’t work for everyone. Spine surgery may become an option if weeks or months of conservative options don’t relieve symptoms.

If you are being recommended for a spine procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn more about the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery. Our outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative^ to traditional open neck or back surgery, offering our patients less risk of complication and a streamlined experience.

To help you find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, ask our dedicated team for a no-cost review or your MRI or CT scan.*