Foraminal narrowing — risk factors and treatments

Foraminal narrowing occurs when the foraminal canal becomes obstructed or blocked by a damaged component of the spine. The most common cause of foraminal narrowing is a degenerative spine condition, such as a herniated disc, bulging disc or bone spurs, as well as other degenerative conditions.

The foraminal canal is the passageway that allows nerves to exit the spine, and any obstruction in the canal could result in a pinched nerve. Pinched nerve symptoms range from local pain and discomfort to debilitating pain that radiates into the nearby extremities. Any symptoms of this nature should be checked by a physician or spine care specialist to determine the source of the pain and the best option for treatment.

Because foraminal narrowing is often caused by a degenerative spine condition, there are certain lifestyle risk factors that may increase the chance of developing this condition.

Risk factors

One of the primary causes of foraminal narrowing (also called foraminal stenosis) is the natural aging process. While aging is inevitable, there are a few risk factors that can expedite the process of developing foraminal narrowing. These factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyles
  • Occupations that require constant sitting, standing, driving, bending, lifting and twisting
  • Regular participation in high-impact sports

While avoiding these risk factors does not guarantee that you will avoid developing foraminal narrowing, it could help postpone the onset of this condition.

Treatments available for foraminal narrowing

If you have developed foraminal narrowing despite your best efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent its onset, there are several treatment options available.

Many patients are able to find relief through conservative means, such as pain medications, physical therapy, hot/cold compresses, corticosteroid injections and other nonsurgical techniques.

If discomfort persists despite weeks or months of these therapies, the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute may provide relief. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery can relieve pressure on the trapped nerve by removing a small portion of the damaged disc or bone spur that is obstructing the foraminal canal. This will provide more room in the canal for nerves to travel without impacting the stability of the spine. However, if the entire disc or vertebra is damaged and is no longer able to support the spine, the surgeons will remove it altogether and replace it with an artificial disc and/or bone grafts through a minimally invasive stabilization surgery.

Both of these procedures offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery by using a small incision and avoiding the tearing or detachment of the muscles surrounding the spine. Because of our minimally invasive approach to the spine, our patients can experience a shorter recovery time,^ higher patient satisfaction score and lower risk of infection than patients who choose traditional spine surgery.

Contact us to learn about our procedures and how they have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from neck and back pain.