A clinicopathological study of low back pain due to middle cluneal nerve entrapment: case series

Eur Spine J. 2024 Feb;33(2):490-495. doi: 10.1007/s00586-023-07944-6. Epub 2023 Nov 4.


Purpose: The middle cluneal nerve (MCN) is a pure sensory nerve around the middle buttock. Its entrapment between the iliac crest and the long posterior sacroiliac ligament elicits low back pain (LBP) that can be treated by MCN neurolysis or neurectomy. Because few studies examined the pathology of MCN entrapment (MCN-E) we subjected 7 neurectomized specimens from 6 LBP patients to pathologic study.

Methods: We present 6 consecutive patients (7 sides) with intractable LBP who underwent successful MCN neurectomy. Their symptom duration ranged from 6 to 96 months (average 47.3 months); the follow-up period ranged from 6 to 17 months (average 11.7 months). The surgical outcomes were evaluated using the numerical rating scale (NRS) for LBP and the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RDQ) score. The resected MCNs underwent neuropathological analysis.

Results: Postoperatively, all 6 patients reported immediate LBP amelioration; their NRS and RDQ scores were improved significantly. Pathological study of the 7 resected nerves showed that the myelinated fiber density was decreased in 6 nerves; we observed marked enlargement (n = 5), perineurial thickening and disruption (n = 6), intrafascicular fibrous changes (n = 5), myelinated fibers separated by fibrous cells under the perineurium (n = 4), and Renaut bodies (n = 3). The 7th nerve appeared normal with respect to the density and size of the myelinated fibers, however, the perineurium was slightly thickened.

Conclusion: We present pathological evidence at the MCN compression site of 7 nerves from 6 patients whose LBP was alleviated by MCN neurectomy, indicating that MCN entrapment can elicit LBP.

Keywords: Low back pain; Middle cluneal nerve; Neurectomy; Neuropathy; Pathologic features.

MeSH terms

  • Buttocks
  • Chronic Pain*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / etiology
  • Low Back Pain* / surgery
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes* / surgery
  • Research