Nerve root compression

What is it?

The nerves supplying the legs, bladder and bowel pass through the lower part of the spine.

How do you get it?

The nerves can be pressed on by a variety of means.  The most common is a disc prolapse where part of the disc material goes outside the disc and presses directly on one or more of the nerves.  This will often occur quite suddenly.  Sometimes, the joints in the back will become worn over time.  This can gradually narrow the space available for the nerves, hence, leading to pressure on the nerves.

What symptoms do you get?

Typically, you will get pain in the buttocks and legs.  This pain is usually worse with walking.  Sometimes, bladder and bowel function can be damaged leading to incontinence. 

What happens without treatment?

Sometimes, the pressure will settle down on its own, but usually it will continue. 

How do you treat it?

With persistent nerve root compression, surgery to take the pressure off the nerves works well to get rid of symptoms.  Usually after this sort of episode, the back will be stiff and the muscles weak, hence people will often have mechanical back pain and need a physio programme to get going again.