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What is acute nerve root compression?



Acute nerve root compression is when a nerve is compressed by a structure within the back as it leaves the spinal column. Physiotherapy is a very effective treatment for acute nerve root compression.


How does acute nerve root compression happen?



Acute nerve root compression is most commonly caused by an intervertebral disc prolapse. Intervertebral discs are shock absorbing pads that are found between each of the bones that make up the spine. When a disc is injured, its contents may prolapse or bulge outwards and put pressure on a nerve as it leaves the spinal column. An intervertebral disc prolapse may occur following a relatively simple movement such as bending forward or twisting. It can also be caused by more complex and forceful movements of the spine.


What are the symptoms of acute nerve root compression?



Acute nerve root compression causes a sudden onset of pain in the leg (known as sciatica). This pain is commonly described as a shooting, burning or intense aching pain that is difficult to locate. You may also be unable to stand up straight. Pain is often worse when sitting, bending, lifting, coughing or sneezing. Weakness, numbness, and/or pins and needles can also be caused in the hip, knee, calf, ankle and/or foot. Other symptoms may include:

What should I do if I have acute nerve root compression?



If you have or suspect you have an acute nerve root compression, you should consult a physiotherapist immediately.

If you have pain in both of your legs, loss of muscle power in both of your legs, numbness in the saddle region, have difficulty passing water or passing stools you should go to your nearest accident emergency department immediately.


Physiotherapy treatment for acute nerve root compression.



The assistance of a physiotherapist is important in the treatment of acute nerve root compression. Initially, your physiotherapist can diagnose your problem and determine its severity. In severe cases, referral for imaging techniques such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI may be required. Following the assessment your physiotherapist will devise a treatment plan specifically for you. Physiotherapy treatment may include:

What shouldn’t I do if I have acute nerve root compression?



If you have or suspect you have an acute nerve root compression, you should not ignore the problem and continue to participate in sport or activities that aggravate your pain. Continuing could lead to your problem worsening and may prolong your recovery.


Could there be any long-term effects from acute nerve root compression?



Acute nerve root compression does not usually cause long-term effects, if it is appropriately diagnosed and treated. A full recovery is usually within a couple of months. However, dependent on the size of the disc bulge and the extent of nerve compression, this period may be prolonged. If the disc bulge is extremely large and causing severe symptoms, it may be necessary to undergo surgery to release the pressure on the nerve. This will increase your recovery time.

To arrange a physiotherapy assessment with a spinal specialist call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 or book online.


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