The spinal cord is the body’s major nerve tract. About 18 inches long, it extends lengthwise from the base of the brain to the lower back.
The spinal cord is comprised of nerve cells that make up nerve fibers. Some of these nerve fibers send sensory impulses to the brain, while others carry motor, or movement, impulses from the brain to other parts of the body. Essentially, then, the spinal cord is the main communication highway of the central nervous system, carrying impulses of sensation and movement to and from the brain.
The spinal cord is situated within the stacked vertebrae, or bones, that make up the spinal column. In addition to being protected by a strong cylinder of bones, the spinal cord is surrounded by:
- Three layers of tissue, collectively called spinal meninges
- The outermost layer is a tough protective coating called the dura mater
- Cerebrospinal fluid
- The epidural space
- Blood vessels
Branching off the spinal cord are nerve roots that exit the spinal canal in pairs:
- A dorsal nerve root, controlling sensation
- A ventral nerve root, controlling movement
Nerve roots exit the spinal canal through a space in between vertebrae called the intervertebral foramina (also known as the neural foramina or foramen). These nerve roots lead to peripheral nerves, which branch out and carry signals to other parts of the body.
When any of the nerve roots or the spinal cord are compressed or pinched by a bulging disc, a herniated disc, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, or other conditions of the spine, then pain and other discomfort may result. Pain can be situated at the site of the pinched nerve, and it can radiate to other parts of the body, such as the shoulders, arms, buttocks, legs, or feet. Other common symptoms are numbness, tingling, weakness, and muscle cramps.
Treatments to relieve pressure from a pinched nerve in the spinal column depend on the severity of the injury or damage. These treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Epidural steroid injections
If you have been diagnosed with a spinal condition in which intervertebral discs or other tissue is placing undue pressure on your spinal cord and/or nerve roots, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI). In many cases, we can help relieve pain and discomfort through our outpatient, minimally invasive endoscopic procedures. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.