Nerve root overview

Many cases of neck and back pain originate from a compressed nerve root. In fact, most spine conditions do not cause symptoms until displaced spine material, like a bone spur or damaged disc, interferes with the spinal cord or a nerve root. If your life is being affected by neck or back pain, making everyday activities like yard work or cooking a meal more difficult than they should be, it is time to get treatment.

As you partner with your doctor to get the relief you need, learning as much as possible about spinal anatomy and the full range of treatment options available can inform your choices and hopefully get you back to a better quality of life.

What is a nerve root?

A nerve root is a collection of nerve fibers exiting the spinal cord. There are two types of nerve roots that branch off from the spinal cord:

There are 31 pairs of spinal nerve roots total. These nerve roots are connected to peripheral nerves, which are bundled nerve fibers that take motor and sensory signals to defined targets throughout the body.

Spinal nerve roots exit the spinal canal by dermatomes through a space in between each spinal vertebra called the foramen, or foraminal canal. There is a space like this at every level of the spinal column, so nerve roots are able to exit and carry signals from the brain to the rest of the body.

Treating nerve root compression

Sometimes, the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root may become compressed when bone, muscle, tendons, intervertebral discs or other tissue invades the nerve root’s space. These materials may include:

When a nerve root is placed under stress, it can send signals of pain, numbness, tingling or burning to other parts of the body. This usually depends on the location in the spinal column where the pinched nerve is located. For example, a pinched nerve in the lumbar, or lower back, region of the spine may result in pain or discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, hips, legs or feet.

If you have been diagnosed with a spinal nerve root condition, your initial treatment will likely consist of rest, physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medications. If these treatments are not successful, your physician may recommend traditional open back surgery to relieve pressure on your spinal nerve root. Traditional open spine procedures involve a large disruptive incision, hospitalization and a long rehabilitation period.

You do have an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery that can decompress nerve roots using a smaller incision that spares important supporting muscles. This leads to a shorter recovery period with less scarring^ for our patients, letting them get back to their lives faster.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today. We will provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery with us.