Foraminal encroachment overview

Foraminal encroachment means that degeneration in the spinal column has caused an obstruction of the foramina, which are the open spaces on either side of the vertebrae through which spinal nerves pass on their way to other parts of the body. As these neural passageways become blocked, it can force pressure on the nerves, which causes pain at the site of the compressed nerve as well as symptoms that travel to the extremities.

This condition of foraminal encroachment, which goes by other names such as foraminal stenosis and spinal foraminal stenosis, can occur in any of the spinal regions, including the cervical (neck), thoracic (middle back) or lumbar (lower back). Generally, foraminal stenosis symptoms are unilateral, meaning they only occur on one side of the body. However, bilateral foraminal stenosis can also occur, in which foramina on both sides of the vertebrae are narrowed. To learn about the causes of this condition and the treatment options available for relief, read the following article.

Foraminal encroachment causes

Foraminal stenosis causes may include any of the following:

  • Herniated disc. The spinal disc ruptures and the gel-like center of the disc extrudes into the spinal canal in the area of one or more foramina.
  • Bulging disc. This condition develops when the spinal disc shifts and pinches the foramen, contributing to foraminal encroachment.
  • Degenerative disc disease. This condition occurs due to aging during which discs become thinner, drier and more brittle, making them extremely prone to damage. Degenerative disc disease can often be a cause of herniated discs and bulging discs, both of which contribute to foraminal encroachment.
  • Bone spurs. Often referred to as osteophytes, these are extra growths of bone that your body produces to reinforce the spine when it senses the spine has begun to degenerate. However, these bone spurs can cause foraminal encroachment. Bone spurs are often brought on by arthritis of the spine.

Foraminal encroachment treatment

There are a number of foraminal encroachment or foraminal stenosis treatments. Your doctor may suggest a course of prescription or over-the-counter pain medication, low-impact exercise, rest, hot and cold packs or steroid injections. If these conservative methods do not prove effective after several weeks or months, your doctor may also suggest foraminal stenosis surgery.

If this is the case, Laser Spine Institute is ready to talk to you about our safer and effective alternatives to traditional open back surgery.^ Remember, neck and back pain does not have to be a way of life. Contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn about the advantages of out minimally invasive spine surgery.

To relieve foraminal encroachment, our board-certified+ surgeons perform minimally invasive decompression or stabilization surgery using a small incision that is muscle sparing. To find out if you are a potential candidate for the outpatient surgery performed at our state-of-the-art facility, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a free MRI review.*