Understanding Nerve Pain Through Spine Anatomy
Radicular or nerve pain, is one of many different types of pain in the upper and lower extremities, some of which may be caused by arthritic, muscular, and circulatory conditions, among others.
Most people describe radicular pain as a sharp or burning pain that travels down the arm or the leg. Sometimes it can be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. When it happens in the legs it is frequently called sciatica or sciatic pain.
The pain caused by compressed nerve roots generally has specific patterns. These patterns of nerve pain depend on the level of the nerve being compressed.
Let’s briefly discuss the basic anatomy of the spine and spinal dermatomes to better understand the condition.
Central Nervous System (CNS)– The brain and the spinal cord
Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)-The nerve roots that exit the spinal cord/spinal canal into the body
It’s defined as an area of the skin supplied by nerves from a single spinal root. When the nerves exit the spinal cord they branch out and travel along certain regions of the body.
The spinal nerves that control the dermatomes are located along the vertebrae as follows:
The Neck or Cervical Spine (C2 to C7) — nerves corresponding to the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers
Mid Back or Thoracic Spine (T1 to T12) – nerves corresponding to the chest and abdomen
The Lower Back or Lumbar Spine (L1 to L5) — nerves corresponding to the hips, front of the legs, knees, shins and feet
The Tailbone or Sacral Spine (S1 to S5) — nerves corresponding to the genitals, buttocks, back of the legs and calves
Extremity nerve pain or radiculopathy is a common problem that occurs when nerve roots are compressed or irritated. It can be due to a variety of causes such as disc bulges/herniations, degenerative narrowing of the space for the nerves (spinal stenosis or foraminal stenosis), spinal instability or deformity of the vertebrae.
After reviewing your history, and performing some orthopedic and or diagnostic tests, your physician will determine if your symptoms are due to a problem caused by spinal nerve root compression. This type of pain is very commonly seen in practice and can be safely treated by spinal manipulation, decompression therapy and physical therapy modalities.
If you suffer from pain in the arms or legs or have any questions about our services, feel free to contact us, we’re here to help.