Aging and foraminal narrowing

Aging is often the main cause of foraminal narrowing because the spine undergoes degenerative changes over time, which can lead to the narrowing of the foraminal canal.

Often, degenerative spine conditions, such as a herniated disc or bone spurs, develop as the spine experiences years of pressure from weight gain and constant motion. These degenerative conditions cause the elements of the spine to move out of alignment, sometimes moving into the foraminal canal and narrowing the space available for nerves to travel in and out of the spine. Sometimes, this can cause a nerve root in the foraminal canal to become pinched, resulting in local and radiating pain and limited mobility.

While the natural aging process is unavoidable, there are several things that can be done to reduce the severity and risk of foraminal narrowing. Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make to improve the overall health of your spine. Sometimes small changes to your lifestyle can help you avoid the painful symptoms of foraminal narrowing.

Symptoms of foraminal narrowing

While foraminal narrowing alone does not cause symptoms, it can lead to a trapped nerve root in the foraminal canal, which can cause debilitating pain and discomfort.

A compressed spinal nerve can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling, cramping, spasms and muscle weakness. These symptoms can occur locally near the spine and also throughout the nerve pathways into different areas of the body. For example, a pinched nerve in the cervical (upper) spine may produce symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms and/or hands. Foraminal narrowing in the thoracic (middle) spine may cause discomfort in the middle back, ribs and/or torso. An individual with this condition in the lumbar (lower) spine may experience pain in the lower back, hips, buttocks, legs and/or feet.

Treatments for foraminal narrowing

Foraminal narrowing is often treatable through conservative means, including pain medications, physical therapy and hot/cold compresses. If these noninvasive treatments prove ineffective after weeks or months, the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute may be a viable option.

At Laser Spine Institute, we offer safer, effective treatment alternatives to traditional open back surgery. Our treatments involve a small incision that result in a reduced recovery time* and lower risk of complications and infection. For foraminal narrowing, our minimally invasive decompression surgery will remove a small portion of the degenerative disc or bone spur that is blocking a portion of the foraminal canal and trapping a nerve root. In some cases, the entire damaged disc may be protruding too far into the foraminal canal and may need to be removed completely. For this situation, our minimally invasive stabilization procedure will remove the entire degenerative disc and replace it with an artificial disc and sometimes bone grafts.

Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive procedures and to have one of our spine care experts review your MRI report or CT scan to help you take the next step to find pain relief for your foraminal stenosis.