Foraminal stenosis FAQ — frequently asked questions

A diagnosis of foraminal stenosis might sound complicated at first and can understandably lead to a lot of questions. To help you better understand your condition, symptoms and the treatments that can help you find relief, Laser Spine Institute has compiled this guide to some of the most frequently asked questions patients dealing with this condition can have.

Q. What is foraminal stenosis?

A. This condition involves the shrinking of the intervertebral foramina, which are openings between the vertebrae that allow nerve roots to exit from the spinal cord and travel out to the rest of the body. Narrowing of these canals can potentially compress nerves and lead to localized or radiating symptoms.

Q. What causes foraminal stenosis?

A. Foraminal stenosis can be caused by a number of factors. One of the most common is the development of bone spurs, an issue often associated with arthritis of the spine. Another is the presence of a bulging or herniated disc. The displaced disc material can place pressure on surrounding nerves or block one of the foramina, interfering with the nerves running through it. These and other conditions are typically related to age-related degeneration of the spine that makes it less able to withstand the pressure being placed on it every day.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Nerve compression related to foraminal narrowing can cause a range of symptoms. Often, the symptoms radiate down the nerve pathway into the extremities. For example, a pinched nerve in the lower back can produce pain, numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs or feet.

Q. What are some treatment options?

A. Physicians generally recommend that patients start with nonsurgical treatment options. A typical treatment program might include:

  • Taking pain medications
  • Placing ice packs and/or heating pads on the affected area
  • Participating in physical therapy
  • Performing certain stretches regularly
  • Getting moderate exercise

In a large number of situations fully exploring a course of conservative treatments can offer relief and a return to normal activities.

Q. Will I need surgery?

A. A few patients find that even after months of conservative treatments, their pain and other symptoms haven’t been meaningfully reduced. This group of foraminal stenosis patients may want to examine their surgical options.

At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons perform several types of minimally invasive surgical procedures that can address foraminal stenosis and its symptoms. To learn more about our procedures and why they are an effective alternative to conventional open back surgery, contact us today.

We’ll be happy to provide a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.