Bilateral stenosis is a condition in which the openings on both sides of a vertebra become narrowed, often putting pressure on the spinal nerves that pass through these holes. This, in turn, causes pain, tingling, weakness and even numbness on both sides of the body. This condition is also known as bilateral foraminal stenosis due to the fact that the openings between the vertebrae are called foramina (or singular, foramen). There are two foramina at each vertebral level. With bilateral stenosis, both of these openings narrow, as opposed to the more common lateral neural stenosis, in which only one narrows and symptoms are confined to one side of the body.
Various types of stenosis in the spine can result from:
- Disc degeneration
- Slipped discs
- Bulging discs
- Herniated / ruptured discs
- Congenital defects
The most common cause of this condition is disc degeneration, although it can also result from a combination of issues. If your bilateral stenosis results from a slipped, bulging or herniated disc, that means the discs in between your vertebrae are infringing upon a foramen, narrowing the space through which the spinal nerves can pass and possibly even putting pressure on the nerves.
The area of your body that shows symptoms depends on the position of the affected foramina and nerves. Usually, compressed nerve roots in the upper part of the neck and back will cause symptoms in the head or upper torso, whereas those in the lower back can impact the legs and feet, and can even cause difficulties walking and controlling bladder/bowel function.
Conservative treatments for bilateral stenosis include physical therapy and exercise, rest, pain medication, steroid injections and anti-inflammatory medicine. When the condition is not responding to these treatments, however, your physician may recommend surgery.
If your physician has said your bilateral stenosis is severe enough to warrant surgery, but you want a second opinion, contact Laser Spine Institute today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan. We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery for the treatment of degenerative neck and back issues such as spinal stenosis, neural stenosis, and more.