What is Acute Nerve Root Compression?
Also called radiculopathy, acute nerve root compression occurs when a nerve within the neck or back is compressed as it leaves the spinal column. The pain caused is often referred to as ‘sciatica’ (in the leg) This can be felt as numbness, shooting pain or weakness in the arms, neck, chest, legs, feet and/or hip area.
When intervertebral discs in the spine are injured – called a prolapse, where they bulge outward – it can place pressure on the nerve. This pressure is what is irritating it and triggering the condition. These discs are the shock absorbers found between the bones in your spine.
Acute nerve root compression can occur in the three spinal regions:
What are the causes?
Sometimes, simple bending or twisting movements of the spinal column can compress the nerves. It can also be due to sharp or forceful movements. Often it is a repetitive movement done over time that causes the damage and the simple bending was just the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak.
Commonly, symptoms of radiculopathy occur around the nerve. Cervical radiculopathy pain is typically felt in the arms and shoulders. Thoracic pain can present in the arm or lower down, and lumbar radiculopathy pain is often felt in the legs and foot. As the pain doesn’t usually present in the spine, it is called ‘referred pain’.
Additionally, preexisting spinal conditions or other degenerative disorders can irritate or compress the spinal nerve roots, including:
What are the symptoms?
- Sudden pain – shooting, severe, burning and/or aching
- Tingling (similar to pins and needles sensations)
- Numbness (complete or just a decreased sensation)
- Muscle/limb weakness
- Muscle spasm or tightness
- Loss of or abnormal reflexes
- Inability to stand up straight or maintain balance
Treatment for Acute Nerve Root Compression
Physiotherapy is an effective way to reduce pain and encourage recovery from acute nerve root compression. Though it does not usually have long term effects, timely diagnosis and treatment is vital.
At Vitalis Physiotherapy, treatment is aimed at stabilising the spinal column and using exercise to unload the neck and spine to reduce pressure on the discs and spinal nerve roots. This is done through:
- Soft tissue mobilisations (massage)
- Joint mobilisation
- Heat therapy
- A tailored home exercise program
- Graded Exposure to load program
Anti-inflammatory and/or analgesic medication, rest and heat packs may help some of the symptoms.
Recovery typically takes a couple of months, however this depends on the severity of the disc bulge and nerve root compression. It is important that you do not engage in strenuous activity or sport as this may worsen or aggravate the condition.
How to book an appointment?
If you think that you may be suffering from acute nerve root compression, our physios at Vitalis Physiotherapy can assess and diagnose the condition. They may also refer you to get scans in some severe cases to better understand your needs. Your treatment plan will be tailored to your needs to aid in your pain relief and recovery.
All you need to do is just give us a call on 0410 559 856 and request an initial appointment. Please let our friendly reception staff know the background and severity of your condition.
You can visit our FAQs for more information about appointments at Vitalis Physiotherapy.