Foraminal stenosis prevention

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Preventing foraminal stenosis can be difficult for a number of reasons, but there are definitely steps you can take to lower your risk of developing this spinal condition. While there are external factors that can contribute to or accelerate the onset of foraminal stenosis, in many cases the main underlying cause is the natural aging process, which no one can prevent. However, by learning more about this condition and the full range of underlying causes, you can work with your doctor to identify the preventive steps that may be best for you.

Foraminal stenosis definition

The term foraminal stenosis refers to narrowing of the openings —called foramina — between the vertebrae that allow nerve roots to exit the spinal column. This narrowing is typically caused by a degenerative spine condition like a bulging disc or an arthritic bone spur. Foraminal stenosis is such a potentially painful and debilitating condition because it can put pressure on the nerve roots, leading to both local and radiating symptoms.

Foraminal stenosis causes and contributors

The biggest underlying contributor to foraminal stenosis is aging. The spine is subjected to an immense amount of pressure on an everyday basis, and parts like the joints and discs are especially vulnerable to this stress. With age, these parts can dry out and become less able to withstand the weight and movement being placed on them. Age-related conditions like spinal arthritis and degenerative disc disease can then develop that lead to narrowing of the foramina.

Aside from age, there are other factors that can contribute to the stress being placed on the spine or have a negative effect on the overall health of spinal anatomy. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor posture
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Repetitive motion injury
  • Poor nutrition

Foraminal stenosis prevention

The best way to prevent the development of foraminal stenosis is to take any steps necessary to improve the overall health of your spine. For example, obesity often leads to stenosis because the burden of supporting excess body weight strains the back, leading to muscle inflammation and nerve irritation. Conversely, regular exercise can strengthen the back and can help relieve the pressure being placed on the spine. Weight management, posture improvement, quitting smoking and optimizing workplace ergonomics are additional steps that doctors recommend to prevent this condition.

Treatment options

Upon diagnosing foraminal stenosis, initial treatment will usually consist of conservative options such as rest, ice packs, heating pads, physical therapy, medication and epidural steroid injections. Surgery may be recommended if these options are not effective enough in relieving pain for a return to a normal lifestyle.

If you are ever recommended for surgery but have concerns about the risks and difficulties involved with a traditional open spine procedure, contact Laser Spine Institute. Since 2005 we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from conditions like foraminal stenosis with minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery.

Speak to our dedicated and caring team today to learn more. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.