Where is the intervertebral foramina?

The intervertebral foramina are the openings located between each individual vertebra in the spine. These small, arch-shaped holes form near the joints of the vertebrae above and below; they are the points where nerve roots branch off the spinal cord. There is one pair of intervertebral foramina on the rear left and right side of each intervertebral space. This allows nerves to travel out to both sides of the body.

The foramina can relate to neck or back pain if they become narrowed by a spine condition, such as a bulging disc, which can put pressure on a nerve root. If you are suffering from chronic neck or back pain related to a spine condition, educating yourself is an important step in your treatment process. This information can help you ask the right questions and better understand the answers so you can take an active role in your care.

Intervertebral foramina are present in every section of the spine

Foramina are found at each level of the spine — cervical, thoracic and lumbar:

  • Cervical foramina — located in the neck or upper part of the spine
  • Thoracic foramina — located in the central part of the spine attached to the rib cage
  • Lumbar foramina — located in the lower spine

You may be interested to know that foramina are also present in the fused sacrum and coccyx regions of the lower spine.

Foramina may narrow over time

Typically, foramina are several millimeters in height, and their size is directly related to the height of the intervertebral disc space. However, the openings can gradually narrow over time, usually due to injury or age-related degeneration, leaving less space for the nerves. The foramina can become so narrowed that they place pressure on the nerve roots — a condition called foraminal stenosis. Common symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness, both locally and in the extremities.

If you’ve been diagnosed with foraminal stenosis, most doctors will usually begin a course of conservative treatments designed to relieve symptoms. Methods that many patients find effective include physical therapy, massage, rest, heating pads and cold compresses. However, if weeks or months go by without your symptoms improving, you may be recommended for surgery.

Laser Spine Institute offers an alternative to traditional open spine surgery. Our minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery involves a less than 1-inch incision, which spares muscles and offers patients a shorter recovery time^ when compared to traditional procedures.

To find out if you’re a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute, reach out to us today for a no-cost MRI review.*

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