Degenerative foraminal stenosis is a type of spine disease that is a common result of aging. Specifically, foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of one or both of the vertebral canals through which which nerves branch off the spinal cord. The resulting compression of these spinal nerves is a common source of pain and other neurological symptoms.
As the word “degenerative” indicates, foraminal stenosis is a condition that can appear gradually over time, as the diameter of the foramen slowly shrinks. Because the foramen is a small canal, slight changes in the spinal anatomy can result in foraminal stenosis symptoms. Common causes of this condition include:
- Intervertebral discs that have bulged or ruptured
- Soft tissue that has become swollen and misplaced
- The presence of growths such as bone spurs or tumors
- Spinal osteoarthritis
The specific symptoms of foraminal and spinal stenosis depend on the pathology of the condition. Each foramen contains a spinal nerve root which is responsible for sending signals to a particular part of the body. When compressed, a number of neurological symptoms can occur both locally and along the nerve. And while lumbar foraminal stenosis (in the lower back) is most common, this condition can present itself anywhere along the spine. This means foraminal cervical stenosis (in the neck) could cause the numbness in a hand, or thoracic stenosis (in the middle back) could be behind muscle weakness in the chest.
Correctly treating degenerative foraminal stenosis first requires an accurate diagnosis. This is typically done with an MRI or CT scan, which is used to confirm the foraminal stenosis and ensure there aren’t any other underlying issues behind the symptoms. Physicians normally prefer to treat spinal disorders conservatively, avoiding surgery unless the symptoms are debilitating or dangerous. Conservative treatments can involve physical therapy, the application of heat and ice, and the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. Only in the event that the patient has not responded to nonsurgical treatments will other options be considered.
At Laser Spine Institue, our award-winning staff of spine surgeons offers an outpatient procedure, called a foraminotomy, widens the area of nerve impingement. Unlike traditional open back surgery, our outpatient procedures are minimally invasive and the patient can leave the clinic the same day. To learn more about the minimally invasive endoscopic procedures available, and for a complimentary review of your MRI or CT scan, contact Laser Spine Institute today.