Pain associated with cervical foraminal narrowing may develop gradually over several years. In its early stages, discomfort may arise only occasionally and may be associated with a particular activity, such as riding a bicycle or sitting at a desk for an extended period of time. Symptoms may initially be misinterpreted as a muscle strain in the areas of the neck or upper back. However, foraminal narrowing (or stenosis) means the space available for nerve roots to exit the spinal column is becoming restricted. The foramina (singular: foramen) are openings on either side of the vertebrae that allow for the passage of nerve roots that branch off the spinal cord. Although injury can cause these apertures to narrow, foraminal stenosis is usually caused by years of wear and tear borne by the anatomical components of the spine.
Areas affected by cervical foraminal narrowing
As the anatomical components of the spine grow older, they become more prone to inflammation or deterioration. Joints can become enlarged, and intervertebral discs can lose their elasticity and begin to bulge or herniate. This degeneration is not always a cause for concern. In many cases, people will feel a mild aching and stiffness in their neck or back, and only if nerve root or spinal cord activity becomes compromised will the most serious symptoms arise. If a nerve root becomes compressed due to foraminal narrowing, it can produce debilitating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness. If the foramina within the cervical (neck) region become restricted and nerve roots are pinched, it can produce symptoms in the following areas of the body:
- Upper back
Treatment for cervical foraminal narrowing
In general, chronic symptoms associated with cervical foraminal narrowing can be managed using pain medication, exercise, corticosteroid injections or other conservative methods. However, if your physician determines that conservative methods have been ineffective, you may consider contacting Laser Spine Institute to learn about the benefits of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are performed using state-of-the-art technology. Our orthopedic surgeons have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from neck and back pain. Contact us for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.