Severe foraminal narrowing — symptoms and treatments

Severe foraminal narrowing, or foraminal stenosis, occurs when one or more of the foraminal canals — the openings next to the vertebrae that allow the nerve roots to exit the spinal canal — narrow. This is usually related to a degenerative spine condition, like a herniated disc or spinal osteoarthritis, which can displace spinal anatomy and narrow these openings.

The risk is frequently increased by injury or overuse of the spine. This can make the already narrow foraminal canals even more likely to develop pinched or compressed nerve roots if the space narrows severely. Symptoms from this condition usually only occur as a result of this narrowing. If this happens, the pain can occur at the site of the pinched nerve and also throughout the nerve pathway into the nearest extremity.

Because severe foraminal stenosis is often caused by age or degeneration of the spine, the symptoms can often worsen over time if not treated. Your best opportunity to find treatment before you suffer a decline in your quality of life is to recognize the symptoms of foraminal stenosis early on in the condition and find a treatment before it becomes severe.

Common symptoms for foraminal narrowing

Severe foraminal narrowing typically develops gradually but can be worsened by injury or lifestyle factors. Some of the typical symptoms associated with foraminal spinal narrowing include:

  • Local pain
  • Traveling pain
  • Spasms
  • Cramping
  • Soreness or stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Muscle weakness

Treatment options for foraminal narrowing

Treatment of severe foraminal narrowing generally starts out conservatively, with a variety of nonsurgical treatments that are designed to manage pain and improve mobility. Pain medication, epidural injections, vertebral manipulation, physical therapy and other conservative treatments have all been shown to be effective for many patients. Your doctor can recommend the best approach for conservative treatment based on your condition and medical history.

In the event that your condition has not responded to nonsurgical treatments and your pain continues, your physician may recommend spine surgery to re-establish space for the nerves in the foramina. If you are considering spine surgery, contact our dedicated team to learn more about the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures offer a safer and effective approach to traditional open back surgery, allowing our patients to experience a quicker recovery^ and less risk of complication or infection.

We are happy to offer a review of your MRI report or CT scan at no cost* to determine if you are a potential candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery at one of our state-of-the-art centers.