What is Nerve Root Compression?

Root nerves are cables that exit the vertebral canal branching out from the spinal cord, at each level of our spine carrying signals in and out of the brain. Compression is caused by any condition that puts undue pressure on these structures, most frequently discal protrusion. This situation frequently develops in the cervical and lumbar parts of the spine, which are the most mobile, causing pain in the neck or the low back.

What are the Symptoms of Nerve Root Compression?

Depending on the cause of compression, symptoms may develop quickly or slowly. They differ based on the level and severity of compression.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and stiffness in the neck or lower back
  • Burning pain that spreads to the arms, buttocks, or down into the legs (AKA sciatica)
  • Numbness, cramping, or weakness in the arms, hands, or legs
  • Loss of sensation and weakness in the feet
  • Trouble with hand or leg coordination
  • Pressure on nerves in the lumbar region (lower back) can cause emergency symptoms like loss of bowel or bladder control, severe numbness in the thighs and legs, severe pain, and weakness in the legs

What Causes Nerve Root Compression?

The most common causes of nerve root compression include:

  • Gradual wear and tear of the disc
  • Gradual wear and tear on the bones of the spine/osteoarthritis
  • Injury to the spine
    Cancerous and noncancerous tumors
  • Infection

How is Root Nerve Compression Diagnosed?

Spinal cord compression can be diagnosed by:

  • X-rays of your spine
  • CT scan or MRI
  • Bone scan
  • CT scan is taken after injecting dye into the spinal column (myelogram)
  • Electromyography (EMG), an electrical test of muscle activity

How is Spinal Cord Compression Treated?

The treatment plan for a spinal cord compression depends on the causes of compression and the severity of your symptoms. Treatment plans can include the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications may help decrease swelling and reduce pain
  • Epidural steroid injections into the spinal area
  • Physiotherapy, which can help to strengthen the related muscles
  • If compression is due to a tumor, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may be used
  • Your doctor may suggest surgical treatment if any of the conservative treatments do not work

The surgical procedures include the following:

  • Vertebrae fusion/bone fusion
  • Removal of compression (disc, bone spurs, bone fragments, etc.)
  • Widening the space between the vertebrae using a spacer

How Can I Prevent Root Nerve Compression?

  • Regular exercise
  • Maintain good posture
  • Proper posture while lifting heavy objects
  • Using a good chair that supports the natural curves of your back while sitting.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not lift heavy weight with your back muscles only


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