How to recognize foraminal stenosis symptoms

Foraminal stenosis refers to the narrowing of one or more foramina — the canals on the top and bottom of the vertebrae that allow the nerve roots to travel from the spinal canal into the rest of the body. The condition is often asymptomatic, though symptoms can occur when a nerve root becomes trapped in the narrowing foramina.

Because the foramina act as passageways for nerve roots, the constriction of these canals can increase the risk of nerve compression. Nerve compression can cause pain and symptoms that extend from the site of the compressed nerve all the way into the associated arm or leg. Such symptoms of foraminal stenosis can include:

  • Pain
  • Tingling or a pins-and-needles sensation
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control (If this happens, seek immediate medical attention)

Symptoms of foraminal stenosis often start gradually and worsen over time. By recognizing the symptoms of foraminal stenosis, you can identify the problem early and schedule an appointment with your physician before the pain starts to limit your daily activities.

What causes foraminal stenosis?

The most common cause of foraminal stenosis is the natural aging process and deterioration of the spine. As the spine ages, the discs and joints begin to wear down, which can cause misalignment. The development of a degenerative spine condition can also cause foraminal stenosis, as certain conditions can cause a small portion of the spine to move into the free space within the foramina and cause narrowing as well as possible nerve compression. The most common types of degenerative spine conditions that cause foraminal narrowing include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Bulging disc
  • Bone spur or osteophyte
  • Spinal arthritis

There are also several lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of spinal deterioration. By understanding these risk factors for developing spinal stenosis, you can make daily choices to avoid them and increase your overall spine health. Risk factors for increased spinal deterioration include:

  • Obesity
  • Alcohol or tobacco abuse
  • Participation in high-impact sports
  • Heavy-lifting professions
  • Frequent inactivity or weak core muscles

Are there any treatments available?

Symptoms that stem from spinal nerve compression can typically be managed with a course of conservative treatments. Your physician can help you find the best treatment based on the cause, location and severity of your condition, as well as your lifestyle and medical history.

If symptoms continue after several months of nonsurgical treatment, however, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the additional treatment options available to you. We offer minimally invasive spine surgery designed to treat foraminal stenosis by removing the damaged portion of the spine and releasing pressure on the pinched nerve root. Our minimally invasive surgeries are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery, and result in a lower risk of complications and no lengthy recovery.^ To find out whether you may be a candidate for our procedures, ask to receive a free MRI review.*