Lateral canal stenosis

Lateral canal stenosis, otherwise called foraminal stenosis, is a term referring to the narrowing of the sides of the spinal canal.

The word “stenosis” is derived from the Greek word “stenos,” meaning “narrow.” This narrowing may occur in the center of the central canal in the spine or at the side(s) of the canal where spinal nerves exit the spinal column.

The lateral canal (foraminal canal) is a passageway that allows the nerves to travel from the spine to the rest of the body. When this canal narrows, often as a result of another spine condition, a nerve may become trapped or pinched. When this happens, it produces symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness in the areas of the body affected by that specific nerve.

Causes of lateral canal stenosis

Lateral canal stenosis is often caused by the natural aging process of the spine.

Daily activities like repetitive bending and twisting can cause the joints and discs of the spine to experience pressure. Over time, this daily pressure can cause damage to the spine, such as deterioration and inflammation. Coupled with weight gain that often occurs with age, the spine is easily susceptible to a number of degenerative conditions.

Certain degenerative spine conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated or bulging discs, and bone spurs, often contribute to the development of stenosis. When stenosis develops along the sides of the spinal canal, as opposed to the middle, it is known as lateral canal stenosis. The condition can occur at any level of the spine, but typically develops in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back).

Lateral canal stenosis has been referred to by multiple names, including:

  • Lateral recess stenosis
  • Subarticular stenosis
  • Lateral gutter stenosis
  • Subpedicular stenosis
  • Foraminal canal stenosis
  • Intervertebral foramen stenosis

Treating lateral canal stenosis

The treatments for lateral canal stenosis largely depend on the cause of the spinal narrowing.

For many patients, conservative treatments are the first recommendation for pain relief. Conservative treatments can treat the symptoms, but not the cause of the symptoms. These are often recommended for mild conditions to curb the pain while the body heals itself. The most common conservative treatments often include:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise
  • Stretching
  • Lifestyle changes like losing weight and stopping tobacco use

If chronic symptoms persist after months of conservative treatment, your physician may recommend surgery. While spine surgery may be a scary thought, the minimally invasive spine surgery offered at Laser Spine Institute is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Because of the careful, minimally invasive approach our surgeons take to the spine, our patients can benefit from shorter recovery times^ and lower risks of infection and complication compared to traditional surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery can help treat most cases of lateral canal stenosis, though some severe cases may require stabilization surgery.

To learn more about how these procedures can help relieve the pain of lateral canal stenosis, contact Laser Spine Institute today.