What is Nerve Root Impingement?
One of the most important functions of the spine, also commonly referred to as the “backbone”, is to house and protect the spinal cord. Defined as a bundle of nerves that connects to the brain stem and forms a part of the central nervous system, nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord. This provides a path for messages from the brain to travel to peripheral regions of the body, such as the arms and legs. It is thanks to our complex nervous systems that we are able to walk, run and perform other everyday activities.
Occasionally, the roots of nerves can become obstructed or inhibited, which causes debilitating symptoms. The term “nerve root impingement” refers to this phenomenon. Any of the many nerves angling away from the spine can become impinged, as well as the spinal cord itself. Nerve root impingements can become a disabling or life-threatening condition if not properly and proactively treated. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our team of spine specialists is committed to helping you find safe and effective solutions to any nerve root impingements so that you can participate in the activities you love without pain and difficulty.
Usually, a nerve becomes impinged as a result of the natural aging process. As we grow older, our spines lose water content and begin to reflect many years of wear and tear. Because of this, our spinal columns become vulnerable to several degenerative changes, including:
- The Protrusion or Herniation of Intervertebral Discs: Between most vertebrae lie shock-absorbing cartilage-based discs. Sometimes the gel-like inner nucleus of a disc can leak out of the disc’s hard outer casing. Displaced disc material can then press upon nearby nerves, preventing the nerve from functioning properly and causing pain.
- Spinal Stenosis: Age-related spine complications can cause the spinal canal to narrow. If the spinal canal becomes small enough, it can begin to compress the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries are serious conditions that can quickly develop into a life-threatening emergency.
- Foraminal Stenosis: The foraminal canals, through which secondary nerves branch away from the spinal column to various regions of the body, can narrow and impede the nerves they normally protect.
Besides age, many factors have the potential to increase your chance of developing a nerve root impingement, such as:
- The presence of bone spurs
- Participating in high-impact sports like gymnastics or football, in which injuries often occur
- Developing benign or cancerous tumors near the spine
- Excess weight or obesity
- Lack of exercise
- Inflammation around the spine
- Facet joint decay
- Adhesions (scar tissue) from a previous surgery
- The abuse of alcohol
- Experiencing a sudden trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident or fall
- Improperly lifting heavy objects
- Quickly twisting or bending
- Making repetitive movements, as you might in a job that requires physical labor or driving long distances
If you believe you may be at risk for developing a nerve root impingement, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced spine physicians. Maintaining a healthy spine plays a central role in long-term wellness!
The symptoms of a nerve root impingement can vary widely, depending on the location of the affected nerve and the severity of the obstruction. Generally, the following changes might be evidence of a nerve root impingement:
- Sharp, burning or aching pain and discomfort that may occur in episodes or be consistently present
- Numbness, tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations that may be in one region or radiate to the arms and legs
- Muscle weakness along the path of the compressed nerve
- The feeling that the limbs or back are suffering electric shocks or “falling asleep”
- A decrease in motor function which may become noticeable when performing everyday activities, like getting dressed or writing a letter
- Decreased sensitivity in affected areas
Nerve root impingement symptoms may worsen during certain activities, such as sleeping. Without treatment, the effects of a nerve root impingement may intensify over time. Obtaining prompt and professional care is the best way to ensure you achieve optimal healing from this painful condition.
Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach
Like other conditions that may affect your ability to move and sense your environment, nerve root impingements can initially be quite alarming to the patient. However, the team of spine surgeons at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® regularly helps patients find safe and effective solutions to nerve root impingements and related issues. Even patients with severe nerve canal obstructions are often able to achieve optimal healing!
During your initial consultation, one of our highly-experienced physicians will carefully and compassionately evaluate your medical history, symptoms and physical state. To confirm a nerve root impingement and identify its underlying cause, imaging tests like a CT scan or X-ray may be requested. Through our state-of-the-art facilities, we are able to perform many of these tests on-site. After attaining a comprehensive and accurate diagnosis, we will design a treatment plan that is tailored to meet your unique needs and goals.
The components of treatment for a nerve root impingement will depend upon the location and severity of your condition. Generally, we encourage exploring conservative methods of care before opting for surgery. Some of these modifications may include:
- Wearing a splint
- Participating in physical therapy
- Temporarily taking anti-inflammatory and/or pain control medications
- Receiving localized injections of pain-relieving agents, which can provide relief for up to 6 months at a time
If a nerve or the spinal cord is being significantly compressed and quality of life is hindered, surgical intervention may be necessary. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our surgeons specialize in performing minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures. When compared to traditional open surgeries, minimally invasive operations typically yield benefits that include:
- Shortened recovery times that allow patients to return to work and daily activities more quickly
- Less post-operative pain
- A reduced risk of scarring
- Minimized blood loss
- Very little (if any) trauma to surrounding muscles and soft tissues
In rare cases, a patient’s nerve root impingement may require a traditional procedure. Because our doctors are experienced in conducting both traditional and minimally invasive surgeries, we are able to provide whichever operation best suits your unique case of nerve root impingement.
To learn more about nerve root impingements or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to speaking with you!