Spinal Nerve Disorders

There are many types of back and neck disorders that affect the majority of the population in the United States. Injury, aging, general health, and lifestyle may influence the development of some conditions. Most spinal disorders are known to result from soft tissue injury, structural injury, and degenerative, or congenital conditions.

nerve compression can cause low back painSpinal nerve compression is a common cause of low back pain.

5 Spinal Disorders That Can Cause Nerve Compression

Compressive Neuropathy

Compressive neuropathy develops when nerves in the spine are compressed. This disorder often affects older people. The nerves that exit the spinal canal become trapped, compressed, and swollen. Foraminal stenosis can be extremely painful and debilitating. The effects may temporarily damage or permanently destroy nerves. Foraminal stenosis, associated with cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) spinal stenosis is an example of a compressive neuropathy.

A slipped, bulging, herniated, or ruptured intervertebral disc may cause nerve compression. Nerves may also be compressed or even displaced by the growth of bone spurs (ie, osteophytes). A compressive neuropathy may cause pain to radiate into one or both buttocks, down the legs below the knees and may be felt in the ankles and feet. Pain may be accompanied by sensations of tingling, numbness, and weakness. These types of symptoms are generally referred to as sciatica.

spinal nerve compressionSpinal nerves can be compression for many different reasons, including bone spurs, thickening of a ligament in the spinal column or disc herniation.

Sciatica: Low Back and Leg Pain

Sciatica is a symptom of a compressive neuropathy involving one or several of the lower spinal nerves that make up the sciatic nerve. It is a common ailment named for the sciatic nerve, which is a collection of smaller nerves descending from the spine and joining together to resemble a cable. The spinal nerves come together at the back of the pelvis to form the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve then travels down through each buttock into the legs. At certain points, such as in the posterior thighs, nerves branch off from the main sciatic cable. This is why sciatic pain may be felt in various muscles of the leg.

A direct blow to the sciatic nerve in the leg may occur when falling down. This may injure the sciatic nerve. The force from falling down could initiate bleeding around the nerve, and cause inflammation, nerve compression and pain. If a disc or bone spur protrudes into the spinal nerves that become the sciatic nerve, the symptoms may become severe. A bone spur could displace a spinal nerve creating intense pain. Fortunately, there are non-surgical treatments available to help reduce inflammation and associated pain. These therapies include medication and steroid injections.

If non-surgical treatment is not efffective and, depending on the patient's symptoms and diagnosis, surgery may be recommended. In some cases a surgical procedure called a laminotomy may be performed. During a laminotomy (or laminectomy), the surgeon has greater access to the disc and nerve structures. If the disc is injured (eg, herniated), it may be necessary to remove it—the procedure is called discectomy, and often the surgery can be performed using minimally invasive techniques.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy affects nerves beyond or outside the spinal column. It is a degenerative, toxic, or nutritional condition affecting nerves that branch into the body's extremities, such as the arms or legs. Diabetes or certain drugs can cause or contribute to the development of peripheral neuropathies, a disease process that may cause nerve deterioration and inability to carry or transmit nerve impulses. When a nerve can not longer send or receive impulses or signals, sensory (feeling) and/or motor (movement) function may affected or lost. Symptoms may include burning or a feeling of pins and needles, numbness in the toes or fingers, and weakness when gripping an object or while walking. Medication may help to slow the effects of peripheral neuropathy but may not cure or stops its progression.

Spinal Infections

Spinal infections are rare and include discitis (disc infection) and osteomyelitis (spinal bone infection). These infections typically cause inflammation and pain that may radiate (travel) into another part of the body. A spinal infection may cause permanent tissue injury or take root in the epidural cavity (eg, epidural abscess). This cavity is a fatty area near spinal nerve roots. Epidural cavities are found in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is performed to detect and confirm a spinal infection. Non-surgical treatment may include outpatient intravenous antibiotics followed by a course of oral antibiotics. In some cases surgical intervention may be necessary to eradicate the infection.

Spinal Meningitis

Spinal meningitis is an infection causing inflammation of the membranes in the brain and spinal cord. It is a serious disease and may require hospitalization. Treatment includes intravenous or oral antibiotics combined with bed rest. Symptoms may include fever, headache, weakness, radiating pain, muscle spasm, sensitivity to touch, decreased spinal flexibility, fatigue, sweating, and weight loss. When a child is affected, symptoms may include refusal to stand or sit because it is painful. Increased backache may be an indication in older children and adults. Neck pain and sensitivity to light are common symptoms.

Updated on: 07/09/18
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Outpatient Minimally Invasive Lumbar Laminectomy
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Outpatient Minimally Invasive Lumbar Laminectomy

If you experience low back and leg pain and haven’t found relief through nonsurgical treatments like medication or physical therapy, your spine doctor or surgeon may recommend lumbar laminectomy.
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