Nerve damage may result in back pain and lumbar radiculopathy when the herniated disc causes irritation of the nerve root, causing pain at that level of the spine and radiating down the leg.
Of all the arthritic conditions that affect the level of functioning and comfort in a patient's back the condition and functioning of rest of the body through the spinal cord. The nerves continue from the spinal cord and through the body. At the point where the nerves branch off of the spinal cord, they become part of the peripheral nervous system. These nerves may be affected by disease processes within the body, and also by degenerative processes within the body that cause certain structures to press against the nerves, constricting them and causing various levels of nerve dysfunction. If these nerves are to become injured, either due to compression or disease, the resulting nerve damage may result in pain along the pathway of the nerve and in some cases, the loss of motor control in that part of the body. Many of the nerves that supply information for sensation and conscious motor control of certain body parts also supply information for autonomic functioning of certain organs and organ systems. This is the reason why patients who present with lower back pain and referred pain are also asked if they have recently had a loss of bladder or bowel control. Indeed, when back pain conditions are discovered by doctors to involve nerve damage, the condition is quickly monitored with careful attention. Back conditions which involve nerve damage is a great concern because it also often involves muscle weakness which may eventually result in a significant loss of functioning of the affected limb if the condition progresses, untreated. Also, nerve compression spinal conditions that remain untreated may result in permanent damage and loss of functioning of the affected nerves.
The nerves are the structures in our body that extend from the base of the brain, through the spinal cord, and throughout the body. There are 31 pairs of nerve roots that project through and past the spinal cord, and throughout the body. Ea each level of the spine, two nerve roots project through the sides of the spine in an opening in the spine known as the intervertebral foramina. There is very little variability among humans in terms of where these nerve roots go once they exit the spine. For this reason, doctors are usually to accurately predict which nerve roots of the spine have become damaged or compressed based on the patient's symptoms weaknesses in particular areas of the body. For example, if a patient were to present with lower back pain as well as a loss of ability to flex his or her foot and toe (raise it off the ground and towards the shin), the doctor would immediately suspect nerve damage or nerve root compression of the L5 nerve root. If another patient were to have difficulty extending their foot and pushing off the ground while walking, the doctor would immediately suspect a pinched nerve at S1.
The nerve roots of the spine may suffer from damage or injury due to a traumatic injury, disease, or degenerative changes to the structures of the spine, which causes the space round the nerves to become constricted. Some diseases that cause nerve damage include Lyme Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Peripheral neuropathy, and Diabetes. Injuries that cause nerve damage due to trauma include sports injuries that cause whiplash and car accidents. But the most common cause of nerve damage and nerve root compression in the area of the spine is due to herniated discs.
In a herniated disc injury, the outer shell of the intervertebral disc (which separates the vertebral bones and cushions the spine) becomes torn, causing material inside it to ooze out of the opening. Some of this material may project into the notches behind the vertebral bodies, where the nerve roots exit the spine. If this disc material contacts the nerve roots, the nerve may become irritated or squeezed as it is pressed against. This is the number one reason for lower back pain which also involves lumbar radiculopathy (pain that radiates from the back and down the leg).