Nerve Root Injury and Plexus Disorders
Nerve, nerve root and plexus disorders are common neurological conditions that share symptoms. These disorders can affect a single nerve or the plexus of nerves.
What is a nerve root disorder?
Nerve root disorders cause pressure, pinching or stretching the nerve roots that exit or enter the spinal cord. They are usually caused by bony growths on the vertebrae and narrowing of the opening through which the nerve runs, a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease. Symptoms include radiating pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and shooting pain. Symptoms are the clue to where the nerve is compressed.
Common nerve root disorders occur in the neck (cervical spine) and low back (lumbar spine). Low back pain that radiates down the back of the thigh into the leg is sciatica. Neck pain that radiates down the neck into the shoulder and down the arm is a nerve root disorder. Conservative treatment including physical therapy and epidural steroid injections can improve symptoms. When conservative measures do not help, surgery may be needed to decompress the nerve.
What is a Plexus disorder?
A plexus is a network of intersecting nerve fibers that control both sensations and motor functions. The plexus is a combination all the nerve fibers that serve a specific body part and distributes nerve impulses to that body part. Damage to nerves in a plexus will cause problems in the part that these nerves supply.
The most common plexus disorders affect the Brachial plexus which serves the chest, shoulders, arms and hands; and the Lumbosacral plexus which serves the back, abdomen, groin, thighs, knees and calves, and the pelvis, buttocks, genitals, thighs, calves and feet.
The most common causes of Plexus disorders are trauma from an auto accident or sport injury, and cancer. Symptoms of a traumatic plexus injury include severe pain, weakness, loss of feeling and/or loss of movement. Low back pain is a malfunction of the lumbosacral plexus.
The diagnosis of a plexus disorder will include a comprehensive physical examination soon after the injury or symptoms appear because without innervation muscles will atrophy and impair the normal function of the muscles. Imaging tests will include X-rays, a CT scan, nerve conduction studies, and electrodiagnostic studies.
The diagnosis of a nerve root disorder will include a comprehensive physical examination, and MRI or CT scan. Treatment is focused on identifying and treating the cause of the pain.
Mild injuries to the plexus may improve with conservative measures. Surgery may be the only way to restore function when there are serious injuries. Treatment for nerve root disorders will involve treating the cause and may involve therapeutic injections, surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
When you or a loved one are suffering radiating neck or back pain or have suffered a traumatic spine injury contact Ortho Illinois. At Orthro Illinois Spine Care our board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic and neuro surgeons are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of spine disorders. We are a regional spine center for people in northern Illinois and the Chicago region who are suffering with neck and back pain. Our goal is to help relieve your pain and restore your function so you can get back to the life you love. Call us now at 815-398-9491, to get the correct diagnosis and care.