Ian MacNab, MD, a highly regarded spine researcher, wrote in his book, Backache, about the sensitivity of the spinal nerve root. He explained that the normal spinal nerve root is not sensitive to compression as by a disc herniation or disc bulge. However, an inflamed nerve root is highly sensitive to compression, causing radiculopathy/pain into an extremity like the leg or arm. (1)
An example: think about getting a neck and shoulder massage. It feels great! You relax. But think about getting a neck and shoulder massage after spending a day at the beach without sunscreen. The sunburn makes the relaxing massage, painful. The same thing happens with the spinal disc. Once it has experienced pain from a disc bulge, it never forgets. It has a lasting sunburn that remembers to hurt more quickly the next time a disc herniation presses on it.
Most interestingly, researchers have even correlated the amount of pressure on a spinal nerve root with the symptoms that pressure will cause. (2) The noted that the average pressure on a nerve root from a herniated disc is 53mm Hg.
Pressure of 10mm Hg on a nerve root impairs nutrition and reduces circulation.
Pressure of 20mm Hg on a nerve root can cause pain and numbness.
Pressure between 50mm Hg and 75mm Hg alters nerve function.
Pressure of 60mm Hg on a nerve root can cause increased pain and inability to move, reflex loss and possible muscle weakness.
Pressure of 100mm Hg to 250 mm Hg can cause the greatest leg pain, reflex loss, muscle weakness, a lean of the spine to try to relieve pain, possible urinary or bowel problems (cauda equina syndrome).
The goal of treatment at New Hampshire Spine and Sport is to reduce the pressure on the inflammed disc, relieve pain and return you to your desired quality of life using the non-surgical procedure known as Cox Technic Flexion Distraction and Decompression.
Contact New Hampshire Spine and Sport today for an examination and personalized treatment plan.
MacNab I: Backache. Philadelphia
: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1997.