Spinal Nerve Root Compression

This diagnosis often goes hand in hand with a diagnosis of a bulging or herniated disc. Very often patients will explain to me that their pain is a product of a disc bulge squashing a nerve root in their spine, with their pain spreading down the leg or arm. It is quite common for an MRI study to reveal contact between a bulging / herniated disc and a spinal nerveroot. But again, these findings also turn up in MRI results of people with no pain. So I think it is worth reiterating the concept of nerve sensitivity.

Once the local region of a spinal segment has become sensitized, either by an acute injury or an accumulative load/strain, the spinal nerveroot will be sensitive to mechanical pressure that it would normally not be sensitive to. This sensitivity is likely to be experienced as pain that refers along the nerve pathways that emanate from the affected spinal nerveroot.

Very rarely, there is a pure mechanical pressure from a disc herniation on the spinal nerveroot that requires surgical intervention. For the vast majority however, I would argue that pain that is classically described as “referred from a pinch nerve” will resolve with appropriate education, a short course of anti-inflammatories (as directed by your GP) and some Physiotherapy to unload, desensitize and free up your spine.

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