Understanding Bilateral Neural Foraminal Narrowing

Understanding Bilateral Neural Foraminal Narrowing

Bilateral neural foraminal narrowing may seem like a complicated medical term, but this condition has a fairly simple definition. In essence, the term means that nerve passageways in the spine – on both the right and left sides – have less space than they used to, possibly leading to the compression or pinching of nerves.

If we break the term down into its individual parts, we learn that “bilateral” means both the left and right side are affected, while “neural” refers to nerves. The term “foraminal” tells us that the condition affects the intervertebral foramina, which are open passageways on either side of each vertebra. These passageways provide a space through which spinal nerve roots exit the spinal column and join the complex network of nerves that serves the entire body. And “narrowing” means that the nerve passageways have become smaller.

Several common degenerative conditions can lead to anatomical abnormalities that cause these passageways to narrow, in which case the spinal nerves can become compressed or “pinched.” Foraminal narrowing is also referred to as foraminal stenosis. “Stenosis” means “narrowing.”

While it is most common for foraminal narrowing to be unilateral, or affecting only one side of the body, bilateral narrowing is possible. Degenerative spinal abnormalities that can result in foraminal stenosis include a herniated disc, a bulging disc, bone spurs and spondylolisthesis, among others.

Conservative treatments for bilateral foraminal stenosis

If you are experiencing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in your extremities on both sides of your body and your physician has diagnosed you with bilateral neural foraminal narrowing, many treatment options are available. Your physician may suggest a variety of non-operative, conservative methods, such as:

  • Intermittent periods of rest
  • Alternating hot and cold compresses
  • Low-impact exercise
  • Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
  • Gentle stretching or restorative yoga

What are my surgical treatment options?

If weeks or months of conservative treatments do not help your symptoms to abate, your physician may suggest that you consider spine surgery to alleviate the neural compression caused by foraminal stenosis. Keep in mind that there are outpatient alternatives to more invasive open spine surgeries. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive decompression procedures that utilize state-of-the-art technology. Contact us today for more information and for your MRI or CT scan review.