A reduction in the space available for nerve roots to exit the spinal canal is the definition of foraminal narrowing. Pairs of nerve roots branch off the spinal cord at every vertebral level through openings called intervertebral foramina (singular: foramen). These openings are apertures where the vertebrae meet and articulate, and are therefore subject to narrowing when the components of the spinal anatomy are damaged through injury or by a degenerative condition related to the aging process. The vertebrae, intervertebral discs, and other anatomical components of the spine break down over time. This is particularly true within the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions of the spine. Foraminal narrowing, or stenosis, is often asymptomatic, but problems can arise if the reduced space in the foraminal canal leads to nerve compression.
Symptoms Associated with Foraminal Narrowing
If foraminal narrowing causes nerve compression, the area of the body experiencing symptoms depends on the location of the affected nerve. For example, cervical foraminal narrowing produces symptoms in the head, neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, hands, or fingers. Lumbar foraminal narrowing can produce sciatica, a set of symptoms related to compression of the sciatic nerve or its associated nerve roots. Symptoms can include:
- Localized pain at the site of the nerve compression
- Pain that radiates from the site of compression along the length of the affected nerve
- Muscle weakness
Treatment for Foraminal Narrowing
A doctor might suggest conservative treatment such as pain medication, exercise or corticosteroid injections in order to manage chronic symptoms from foraminal narrowing. If pain or other discomfort persists after several weeks or months, surgery might become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn whether a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using advanced, endoscopic technology may be able to help you rediscover your life without back and neck pain.