Understanding canal foraminal stenosis

Canal foraminal stenosis, also known as lateral canal stenosis, refers to the narrowing of the foramina in the spinal canal, which are the open canals on either side of the vertebrae. The foraminal canal allows the spinal nerves to travel and exit the spinal cord.

This narrowing of the spine is often a result of another degenerative spine condition protruding into the empty canal space. Degenerative spine conditions like herniated discs, bone spurs, bulging discs, spondylolisthesis and ligament thickening can all contribute to foraminal stenosis.

While some degree of narrowing is asymptomatic and naturally accompanies the aging process, a narrowed foraminal canal is at risk of pressing on or pinching the spinal nerves. Nerve compression can cause a painful feeling of tingling or shooting discomfort to travel through the back, arms or legs, depending on which level of the spine contains the compressed nerve.

Should I undergo physical therapy for stenosis?

Many people will try to undergo a regimen of conservative treatment for their canal foraminal stenosis.
This could include anything from pain medication and hot/cold therapy to physical therapy and behavior modification.

While physical therapy can be extremely beneficial for a strained muscle or sprained ligament, you should exercise more caution when undergoing physical therapy for a neuropathic condition like foraminal stenosis. Rigorous stretching, pulling or bending can exacerbate your condition, so be sure to inform your physical therapist if you ever feel the following:

  • Cracking, popping or grinding sensation
  • Pain that has a numbing effect, as if it were reducing circulation
  • Pain that transmits to another part of your body, such as pain that causes a headache or nausea

You can also consult your physician about whether or not physical therapy is the best treatment option for you based on the cause of your condition and your medical history.

Knowing your physical limits

Always be aware of your physical limits when trying to treat canal foraminal stenosis with conservative remedies. Whether stretching, doing low-impact exercise or seeing a chiropractor, discontinue any activity that causes unhealthy pain.

A slight feeling of discomfort will be natural as you try to strengthen muscles and stretch ligaments that surround a compressed nerve, and prescription or over-the-counter pain medication should be enough to manage this pain.

If you are still suffering from pain after several months of conservative treatment, you should research the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute.

If you choose the minimally invasive procedures at Laser Spine Institute, you are choosing the benefits that surpass traditional open back surgery, such as a shorter recovery time,^ a safer and effective procedure and a lower risk of complication. For many patients, a minimally invasive decompression surgery can remove a piece of the damaged spine that is narrowing the foraminal canal. In some cases of severe spinal damage, a stabilization surgery may be required to insert an artificial disc and/or bone graft to help support the spine and widen the space in the spinal canal.

To see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us today to review your MRI or CT scan.