Aging is One of the Top Causes of Foraminal Stenosis

Foraminal stenosis, or the narrowing of the openings that allow spinal nerve roots to exit the spinal column so they are able to branch out and innervate the body, can be caused by a number of issues. For example, the foramina can be made smaller through the growth of bone spurs, the presence of bulging or herniated discs and other spinal abnormalities. Although myriad factors can lead to the development of these spinal problems, the common denominator among all of them is aging.

Losing cartilage through aging

As the body gets older, the components of the spine deteriorate slowly. This is partially due to the gradual wear and tear that occurs over the years, particularly when it comes to losing the cartilage that lines the joints of the spine. Loss of cartilage can lead to the bones grinding together and the consequential growth of bone spurs, which may lead to the narrowing of the foramina.

Deterioration of intervertebral discs

Aging also leads to the loss of water in the intervertebral discs, as well as the degradation of the elastin in their outer rings, making the discs more susceptible to damage. A bulging or ruptured disc can also occlude the foramina. No matter how aging leads to foraminal stenosis, complications can arise when a foramen becomes narrow enough to impinge on a nerve root passing through it. A pinched nerve root can cause weakness, pain, numbness or other symptoms that travel down the nerves, potentially affecting the extremities.

Exploring your treatment options

If you have foraminal stenosis — whether it is caused by aging, injury or any other underlying factor — your physician will probably recommend that you follow a regimen of conservative treatments to address your symptoms. If these treatments don’t provide you with satisfactory relief, you might want to look into your surgical options, including the minimally invasive spine procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute.