How to treat foraminal stenosis

If you have been diagnosed with foraminal stenosis, you may be confused what that medical jargon actually means. “Stenosis” refers to a narrowing, while “foraminal” refers to the open channels through which spinal nerves travel. If the major nerve passageways become constricted, spinal nerves might become compressed or “pinched,” giving rise to pain and interrupting the ability of the nerves to convey motor and sensory signals. There is a wide array of options for treating foraminal stenosis, ranging from gentle alternative treatments to major surgery. The severity of your foraminal stenosis will be a large deciding factor in your personal treatment plan.

What causes foraminal stenosis?

There are many spinal conditions that can cause foraminal narrowing. Most of them are related to the effects of aging or excessive wear and tear on the spine. For example, a bulging disc occurs when a disc’s wall expands and pushes beyond its normal perimeter. A herniated disc occurs when a spinal disc weakens, ruptures and expels its inner disc material into the spinal canal. A spinal bone spur is an additional growth of smooth bone that the body produces in response to reduction in spinal joint stability. All of these conditions can lead to expansion of tissue into space normally occupied by nerve structures, producing the narrowing known as foraminal stenosis.

What are the symptoms of nerve compression?

The symptoms of foraminal stenosis depend on the area of the spine affected. These areas include the following:

  • Cervical foraminal stenosis — This may include pain, numbness or tingling in the neck or upper back. Symptoms are experienced when rotating the head and neck. Symptoms may be localized, or it may radiate down the upper back and into the shoulders, arms and hands.
  • Thoracic foraminal stenosis — This may include pain that seems to surround the rib cage, sternum and abdomen. Twisting from the waist or moving from side to side may generate a “pins-and-needles” sensation.
  • Lumbar foraminal stenosis — This is one of the most common forms of foraminal stenosis. Symptoms in the lower back may remain localized, or may radiate through the buttocks and legs. Radiating symptoms may indicate sciatic nerve compression.

Begin with conservative treatment options

Your physician will most likely start your treatment with conservative methods, which can include pain medication, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, hot/cold therapy, etc. These methods often are successful, but for some patients, they fail to provide enough relief to fully restore their quality of life.

If conservative treatment of your symptoms caused by foraminal stenosis fails, surgery may be required to help you regain an acceptable quality of life. Before submitting to a highly invasive open spine surgery, consider Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine surgery. Our minimally invasive decompression, and in severe cases, stabilization procedures remove excess tissue and open nerve passages in the spinal column to relieve the symptoms of foraminal stenosis. Contact us today and receive a review of your MRI report or CT scan to determine if you are a candidate for one of our innovative procedures.