The term “stenosis” refers to a narrowing, while “foraminal” refers to the open spaces through which spinal nerves travel. As one might imagine, the narrowing of major nerve passageways can compress or pinch spinal nerves, causing pain and interruption of important nerve functions.
Causes of foraminal stenosis
There are a variety of spinal conditions that can cause foraminal narrowing. A herniated disc occurs when an intervertebral disc becomes weak, ruptures and expels its inner disc material into the spinal canal. A bulging disc occurs when the disc wall distends and pushes beyond its normal perimeter. Bone spurs are extra growths of smooth bone that the body produces in response to a weakened spine. All of these conditions can lead to the tissue expansion into space normally occupied by neural tissue, hence the narrowing known as foraminal stenosis.
The compression of nerve roots leads to symptoms such as pain, numbness, weakness, burning/tingling sensations, or pins-and-needles sensations in the extremities. When this process involves multiple foramina (the plural of foramen), it is called foraminal stenosis (foraminal derives from the plural, not the singular). In other words, it is spinal stenosis that specifically affects multiple foramina.
Ordinarily, the nerve roots have plenty of space in the foramina and no pressure is created. The encroachment upon neural pathways over time can not only cause symptoms related to foraminal stenosis, but in extreme cases, could eventually cause nerve death and resulting loss of function if left untreated. Thus, though most cases of foraminal stenosis are not urgent, they certainly warrant examination and treatment. Most conservative treatment options offer little relief from severe symptoms; behavioral changes and traction sometimes provide some relief, but a high percentage of patients continue to experience symptoms.
If you are experiencing severe foraminal stenosis symptoms and your physician has determined that surgery is the required treatment, consider Laser Spine Institute (LSI). We are well-known as the worldwide leader in minimally invasive laser-assisted techniques designed to treat spine ailments without the inherent risks, costs, and drawbacks of conventional open back surgery. Contact LSI today to arrange a complimentary review of your CT scan or MRI and to learn more about our innovative outpatient procedures.