Differences between central and lateral foraminal stenosis

You may have heard the terms “central stenosis” and “lateral foraminal stenosis” and been confused about the difference between the two. While they are similar in that they both involve spinal narrowing (“stenosis” is Greek for “narrowing”), and they both cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms, they actually refer to two different conditions.

Below are the two key differences between these foraminal stenosis types:

  1. Location of the narrowing. The narrowing associated with central stenosis occurs in the central spinal canal, while the narrowing associated with lateral foraminal stenosis occurs in the foramina, which are tiny openings along the length of the spine, on each side of the vertebrae.
  2. How they cause pain. The central spinal canal houses the spinal cord and the nerve roots. As such, central stenosis causes pain by exerting pressure on these nerves. The foramina, on the other hand, house the nerves that are traveling from the spinal canal to the rest of the body. Lateral foraminal stenosis causes pain when it compresses these nerves.

If you think that you may be living with either central stenosis or lateral foraminal stenosis, we encourage you to make an appointment with your physician, who will be able to diagnose your condition and advise you on potential treatment options. Many people are able to relieve their symptoms using nonsurgical techniques.

If you’ve been diagnosed with either central stenosis or lateral foraminal stenosis and haven’t been able to find relief through conservative methods, please contact Laser Spine Institute today to learn about the ways we can treat each of these conditions. We are the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, and our minimally invasive procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ We can perform a free MRI review* to determine whether you might be a candidate for our minimally invasive spine surgeries.