How to recognize foraminal stenosis symptoms

Foraminal stenosis symptoms occur when a nerve root becomes trapped in the narrowing foraminal canal — the canal on the top and bottom of the vertebrae that acts as a passage for the nerve roots from the spinal canal to the rest of the body.

Because the foraminal canal is a passageway for nerve roots, the constriction of this canal can increase the risk of nerve compression. Nerve compression can cause pain and symptoms that extend from the site of the pinched nerve all the way into the associated arm or leg. Such symptoms of foraminal stenosis can include:

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

These symptoms 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 is foraminal stenosis and how does it develop?

Foraminal stenosis is a condition that involves the narrowing of the openings between the vertebrae that allow the nerve roots to exit the spinal canal. While foraminal stenosis can be caused by a number of reasons, the most common cause of this condition is the natural aging and deterioration of the spine.

As the spine ages, the discs and joints begin to wear down, which can cause misalignment within the spine. If a degenerative spine condition develops, it could cause a small portion of the spine to move into the free space within the foraminal canal and cause narrowing as well as possible nerve compression. The most common types of degenerative spine conditions that can cause foraminal narrowing include:

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

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

  • Obesity
  • Alcohol or tobacco abuse
  • High-impact sports
  • Heavy-lifting professions
  • Inactivity or weak core muscles

Because foraminal stenosis is often a result of a degenerative spine condition caused by the natural aging process, this condition commonly develops in the flexible and weight-bearing areas of the spine, such as the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (back).

Are there any treatments available?

Symptoms that stem from spinal nerve compression can typically be managed with a regimen of conservative, nonsurgical 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 patients can experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection because our procedures do not use the same highly invasive techniques used in traditional open back surgery. Instead, each minimally invasive surgery is performed through a small incision with no muscle disruption.

For more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery and to see if you qualify for one of our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today and request a review of your MRI or CT scan.