Getting to Know the Nerve Root Anatomy of Your Spine

The spine is a complex system of bone, cartilage, muscle, nerves, and joints. While most people understand the basic components of the spine, such as the vertebrae and spinal cord, fewer understand how these pieces work together as a functioning mechanism for bodily movement. Thus, when back pain occurs, many patients aren’t able to identify what may be causing the pain and its subsequent symptoms.

Some of the major components of your spine are the nerve roots. These roots are the points at which the nerve branches off from the spinal cord and travels out to the rest of the peripheral nervous system. If compression or inflammation occurs in the nerve roots, you may experience pain in both your spinal area and other parts of your body. If you experience these symptoms, the spinal experts at Strong Life Chiropractic in Lithia, FL may be able to help.

Nerve roots and your spine

Your spine has three major sections: the cervical spine (neck), thoracic spine (upper back), and lumbar spine (lower back). The spinal cord, which houses the nerves connected to the brain, runs between the vertebrae in these sections.

Many people assume the spinal cord runs down the entire length of the spine, but it actually only goes from the base of the brain through the thoracic spine. After the spinal cord ends above the lumbar spine, the nerve roots exit the spine and branch off toward the body in what is called the cauda equina – a bundle of nerves that resemble a horse’s tail.

In total, you have 31 pairs of nerve roots throughout the spinal segments. Each nerve root in a pair has a ventral and dorsal root. The ventral root sends sensory signals out to the body, and the dorsal root transmits signals from the skin to the brain.

Your nerve roots need a space to exit between vertebrae, so they can feed the rest of the peripheral nervous system. A pair of nerve roots exits from the spine at each level through a gap between the vertebrae called a foramen.

Common nerve root ailments

Patients experiencing problems with the nerve roots often complain of back pain in the area where the nerve root is located, as well as pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in other parts of the body, like the hands, arms, and legs.

This dual pain occurs because the nerves in your appendages are fed signals from the nerve roots directly. If there is trouble with the nerve root, it will typically affect the areas where that root branches off and the nerve root itself. There are two major sources of nerve root pain.

  1. Bulging or herniated discs: A bulging disc occurs when the outer edge of the spinal disc rubs against or pinches the nerve root, causing inflammation. If a disc herniates, the gel-like substance from the inner part of the disc leaks out from a tear and may inflame the nerve root and surrounding area.
  2. Foraminal stenosis: Foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of the foramina in your spinal canal, which may lead to the compression of a nerve. This is usually caused by misalignments in the spine due to other spinal conditions. A spinal component may shift into the foramen, narrowing the space the nerve root has to emerge.

Chiropractic treatment may help ease your symptoms of nerve root pain. In cases of bulging or herniated discs, spinal manipulations may help move the spinal disc away from the nerve root and treat inflammation to reduce pain. For foraminal stenosis, chiropractic adjustments may be able to realign your spinal segments, so everything sits where it should, creating ample space for your nerve root to pass through the foramina.

Get to know your nerves

If you are experiencing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in your back and/or in certain parts of the body, your nerves are likely to blame. Visit Strong Life Chiropractic in Lithia, FL to see what our Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) approach, which encourages total patient wellness, might be able to do for you.

Chiropractic BioPhysics, or CBP, is one of the most scientific, researched, and results-oriented corrective care techniques. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health, eliminating nerve interference and addressing the source of pain, fatigue, and disease. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is gentle, painless, and non-invasive.