Foraminal narrowing of the lumbar spine

Foraminal narrowing of the lumbar spine occurs when the foraminal canal — a canal on the side of the spine that allows the nerves to exit the spinal cord — narrows in the lower back (lumbar spine). This condition is often a result of another degenerative condition, such as a bulging or herniated disc, bone spur, or spondylolisthesis.

Also called foraminal stenosis, foraminal narrowing of the lumbar spine is typically a gradual, degenerative process that may ultimately result in lower back pain and neuropathic symptoms in the lower body, including sciatica. However, this condition can also go undetected if the passages do not narrow to the point that they constrict the nerve roots or the spinal cord.

Treatment options for this condition vary depending on the cause and severity of the stenosis, but typically conservative methods offer efficient pain relief.

The lower back and lumbar region of the spine

As the body ages, the foraminal canal is prone to narrowing as certain sections of the spine misalign and move into the empty canal space. For example, a herniated disc that develops after years of pressure from the vertebrae will possibly expand into the foraminal canal and narrow the empty space between the spine and the canal walls. For this reason, the most common cause of foraminal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition, such as:

  • Inflamed soft tissue
  • Misaligned vertebrae
  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Bone spurs
  • Calcified ligaments
  • Facet disease or osteoarthritis (arthritis of the spine)

Treatment for foraminal narrowing

Foraminal narrowing in the lumbar spine can often be corrected with a few conservative treatments that help relieve the pressure on the pinched nerve and realign the spine. These treatments can include:

  • Pain medication
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Physical therapy

These methods often take several weeks or months before lasting relief is felt. However, some patients require more advanced treatment to relieve nerve compression in the lower back.

For these patients, the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute may be beneficial. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery removes a piece of the damaged disc or other degenerative condition, like a bone spur, from the pinched nerve. If the damage is more severe, our stabilization surgery can remove the damaged disc or vertebra altogether and replace it with an artificial disc and/or bone grafts to support the spine.

Both of these types of procedures are performed through a small incision that reduces our patients’ risk of complication and infection and lowers the postoperative recovery time§ compared to highly invasive traditional open back surgery.

To see if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.