Degenerative foraminal stenosis

Degenerative foraminal stenosis is a type of spine deterioration that is a common result of aging. Specifically, foraminal stenosis involves the narrowing of one or both of the canals around the vertebrae through which nerve roots are given space to branch off the spinal cord. As the foraminal canals become smaller, the resulting compression of spinal nerves is often a source of pain and other debilitating symptoms.

As the word “degenerative” indicates, foraminal stenosis is a condition that can appear gradually over time, as the diameter of the foramina slowly shrinks. Since a foraminal canal is already narrow, even slight changes in the spinal anatomy can result in nerve compression and foraminal stenosis symptoms. Common causes of this condition include:

  • Intervertebral discs that have bulged or ruptured
  • The presence of growths such as bone spurs or tumors
  • Soft tissue that has become swollen and misplaced
  • Spinal osteoarthritis

Symptoms of degenerative foraminal stenosis

The specific symptoms of foraminal and spinal stenosis depend on the location of the condition. Each foramen contains a spinal nerve root that is responsible for sending signals to a certain part of the body. When compressed, a number of neurological symptoms can occur both locally and along the nerve pathway.

Although lumbar foraminal stenosis (in the lower back) is most common, foraminal stenosis can present itself anywhere along the spine. This means foraminal cervical stenosis (in the neck) could cause numbness in a hand, or thoracic stenosis (in the middle back) could be behind muscle weakness in the chest.

Treatment for degenerative foraminal stenosis

Treating degenerative foraminal stenosis often begins with conservative therapy to help reduce the pain and symptoms. Nonsurgical treatments can involve physical therapy, the application of heat and ice, and the use of painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications. Only in the event that the patient has not responded to nonsurgical treatments will other options be considered.

If you have undergone several months of conservative treatment that have yielded little to no pain relief, you should consider a surgical treatment for your condition.

At Laser Spine Institute, our staff of spine surgeons offers minimally invasive surgery that aims to widen the foraminal canal by removing a small portion of the damaged disc or bone spur that is causing it to narrow. This is called our minimally invasive decompression surgery. In some cases, the entire disc or vertebra may need to be removed in order to release the trapped nerve. When this happens, our surgeons will follow up with a minimally invasive stabilization surgery to insert an artificial disc or bone graft to immediately support the spine.

Unlike traditional open back surgery, our outpatient procedures are minimally invasive, and the patient can leave our surgery center the same day instead of having to remain hospitalized for several days after surgery. To learn more about the minimally invasive procedures we have available, and for your MRI or CT scan review, contact Laser Spine Institute today.