Nerve roots branch off the actual spinal cord and form the network of neurological tissue found throughout our bodies. Spinal nerves exit from the cord at every vertebral level; one pair to the left and one pair to the right. Each nerve pair consists of a ventral root and a dorsal root, controlling the abilities of movement and sensation, respectively. Just like plants and trees begin as humble roots, so do all the nerves in our bodies.
This article details the anatomy and functionality of the spinal neurological roots and their role in sciatica pain syndromes.
The spinal nerves link the spinal cord to the vast network of nerve tissue in the body called the peripheral nervous system. This network carries the sensory and motor messages, which are responsible for all our physical sensations and movements, between the physical anatomy and the brain.
This huge nerve serves the neurological needs of the entire lower body. Any disturbance or injury to any of these roots might cause problems for the patient, commonly called sciatica.
Most sciatica pain syndromes are blamed on continued compression of a neurological root in the lower lumbar spine. These pinched nerves are said to reduce functionality, create pain and cause the commonly experienced tingling, numbness and/or weakness in affected regions.
Structural nerve compression is entirely possible, but is often a speculative theory which is not supported by documented evidence. Many diagnosed pinched nerve conditions are incorrectly attributed to structural compression in the spine and may actually be the result of some other source process, such as ischemia, disease or nonspinal nerve impingement.
Mistakenly diagnosed dorsopathy is a huge problem in the medical system and accounts for the virtual ineffectiveness of many sciatica treatments. In many instances, a herniated disc or arthritic process will be implicated as compressing a spinal nerve. Since the actual nerves sometimes can not be visualized, symptomatic correlation with a qualified neurologist is the best way to insure the accuracy of this diagnostic theory.
I have concentrated much time and effort in learning all about the spinal nerves and how they may be involved in sciatica expressions. My pain was originally blamed on foraminal stenosis caused by 2 herniated discs located at L4/L5 and L5/S1. These discs were supposed to be compressing the neurological roots, causing me to have the ongoing acute and chronic pain which literally ruled my life.
While some of my symptoms made sense from this diagnosis, others simply did not fit the clinical profile which would be expected. Basically, my sciatica symptoms were too wide ranging and diverse to be explained from these 2 herniated discs. Without diligent research and knowledge, I would have never known this to be fact.
Now, with a total of 12 herniations in my spine, some arthritis and other significant structural issues, I have been diagnosed as having spinal cord displacement and spinal nerve compression. Neither I, nor my most trusted doctors, are definitively sure which structural issues are responsible for which symptoms, so I have decided to hold off on any treatment until a time comes when it is absolutely necessary or until a firm diagnostic conclusion can be achieved.
Given the complexity of the spinal nerve anatomy, I do not expect that my diagnosis will become any clearer with time. Unfortunately, I feel the same for many of you who also have been labeled with pinched nerves, yet have not found relief despite a battery of conservative and even surgical care practices. I wish I had better news.