Foraminal narrowing — steps for prevention
Foraminal narrowing, also called foraminal stenosis, describes the gradual narrowing of the foramina — the space between the vertebrae that allows the nerve roots to travel through the spinal cord. As the space between the vertebrae narrows, the nerve roots traveling in the spinal canal have a higher risk of becoming impacted or compressed by a vertebra or disc in the spine. This nerve compression can cause severe, chronic pain and limited mobility if left untreated.
Because foraminal narrowing is a degenerative condition, meaning it develops with the natural aging process, there are certain precautions you can take to help prevent the development of this condition. Please keep in mind that some conditions are unavoidable and your prevention techniques may only serve to slow the process of developing foraminal narrowing. You should consult your physician before making any drastic lifestyle or treatment changes.
Lifestyle changes to help prevent foraminal narrowing
Foraminal narrowing is a degenerative spine condition, which means that it develops gradually over time due to the natural aging process of the spine. Degenerative conditions often develop in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) region of the spine because these two areas are responsible for moving and stabilizing significant areas of the body, such as the head and mass of the body, respectively. Because of the repetitive motion in these two areas, the vertebrae of the spine can become worn down and may begin to compress the disc in between each set of vertebrae. As the disc gradually deteriorates, the space between the vertebrae — the foramina — begins to narrow, causing foraminal narrowing or foraminal stenosis.
While there is no way to change what has already developed, you can modify your behavior to keep the components of the spine as healthy as possible, reducing your risk of developing foraminal narrowing. Below are a few tips to maintain a healthy spine:
- Do not smoke and keep consumption of alcohol to a minimum
- Eat foods low in saturated fat and high in calcium and omega-3 fatty acids
- Stay hydrated
- Exercise, but avoid high-impact activities that hurt your back or neck
- Practice regular, gentle stretching, like restorative yoga
- Avoid lifting or pulling heavy objects
Treatment options for foraminal narrowing
Even with prevention methods, some people may still develop degenerative conditions like foraminal narrowing. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, consult your physician about the treatment options available to you. For many mild cases of foraminal narrowing, conservative treatments, such as lifestyle change and physical therapy, can offer effective pain relief. However, some conditions are more severe and may require surgical treatment to reduce the pain and symptoms of foraminal stenosis.
At Laser Spine Institute, we offer minimally invasive surgery to help treat foraminal narrowing. While some patients may be recommended for minimally invasive decompression surgery to remove a portion of the disc or vertebra that is impacting a nerve root, many patients may be recommended to undergo minimally invasive stabilization surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove the deteriorated disc and insert an implant to offer the right amount of space between the vertebrae, thus widening the foraminal canal.
Our minimally invasive surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. Patients can receive our surgery at one of our seven world-class, outpatient surgery centers across the country. For more information about the treatment options for foraminal narrowing that are available to you, please contact our Care Team today.