Foraminal stenosis of the cervical spine can be a common cause of chronic neck pain and other traveling neurological symptoms, known as radiculopathy, in the shoulders, arms and hands. The condition of foraminal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the vertebral openings (foramina) that house the spinal nerve roots as they branch off the spinal cord. When a foramen in the cervical (or neck) area of the spine shrinks in diameter, a nerve can become compressed, leading to pain and discomfort.
The causes of foraminal stenosis are a little more complicated. Stenosis can be the result of degenerative disc disease or other common conditions such as bulging discs, herniated discs, bone spur growths, and soft tissue damage. Generally speaking, however, spinal foraminal stenosis is simply the result of the regular wear and tear on the spine.
Foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine is actually asymptomatic until the narrowing of the canal interferes with regular nerve function. This means that symptoms may not be present until the diameter of the foramen has constricted enough to compress the nerves. When this happens, depending on the pathology, a number of symptoms can be experienced, including:
- Local neck pain or stiffness
- Pain, numbness, and tingling in the shoulders, arms, or hands
- Muscle weakness
- Traveling pain along the nerve
- And more
In the event that a patient is exhibiting any of these symptoms, a physician likely will complete a physical examination and may recommend an MRI or CT scan to ensure a correct diagnosis. Typically, once foraminal stenosis is identified in the cervical spine, a physician will attempt to manage the symptoms with a conservative treatment plan. Surgical intervention is only recommended when physical therapy, bed rest and painkillers have proven ineffective, or the patient’s symptoms are debilitating or dangerous.
If surgical treatment is required, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about a procedure known as a foraminotomy. This minimally invasive, outpatient procedure is used to widen the foramen and decompress the nerve. This form of spine surgery is a more effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Please contact Laser Spine Institute today for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan.