What is cervical foraminal stenosis?
Foraminal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the vertebral openings (foramina) that house the spinal nerve roots as they branch off the spinal cord. These foramina protect the nerve roots as they travel from the spinal cord into the rest of the body.
When a foramen in the cervical (upper) area of the spine shrinks in diameter, a nerve can become compressed, leading to pain and discomfort.
Causes of foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine
Foraminal stenosis of the cervical spine can be a common cause of chronic neck pain and other traveling symptoms, known as radiculopathy, in the shoulders, arms and hands.
The causes of foraminal stenosis are a little more complicated. Stenosis can be the result of degenerative disc disease or other degenerative spine conditions, such as:
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- Bone spurs
- Other degenerative conditions
Generally speaking, spinal foraminal stenosis is often the result of the regular wear and tear on the spine over a number of years.
Symptoms of foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine
Foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine often shows no symptoms unless the narrowing of the canal interferes with regular nerve function. This means that symptoms may not be present until the diameter of the foramen has constricted enough to compress the nerves.
When this happens, a number of symptoms can be experienced, including:
- Local neck pain or stiffness
- Pain, numbness and tingling in the shoulders, arms or hands
- Muscle weakness
- Traveling pain along the nerve
- Burning sensation
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your physician to complete a physical examination and an MRI for a diagnosis of your condition.
Treatments for foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine
Typically, once foraminal stenosis is identified in the cervical spine, a physician will recommend a conservative treatment plan for pain relief. Spine surgery is often only recommended when physical therapy and other conservative treatments have proven ineffective, or if it’s an emergency situation.
If surgical treatment is required, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive foraminotomy surgery. This minimally invasive outpatient procedure is used to widen the foramina and decompress the nerves. Our minimally invasive procedures offer lower risk of complications and shorter recovery times compared to traditional open back surgery.^