Types of foraminal stenosis — cervical, thoracic and lumbar

To understand the different types of foraminal stenosis, it’s best to first understand what the foramina are and where they are located. The foramina are lateral passageways between the vertebrae that allow nerve roots to pass from the spinal canal into the body. Foraminal stenosis occurs when one or more foramina begins to narrow which can potentially put pressure on the nerve root that passes through it.

While foraminal stenosis is quite common, it is possible to have this condition without knowing it. This is because it’s usually not until the narrowing passageway compresses a nerve root that a person will experience symptoms.

Types of foraminal stenosis and symptoms

Although foraminal stenosis may occur anywhere along the spine, the location of symptoms may help identify where the stenosis has developed. Foraminal stenosis can occur in any of the three primary regions of the spine:

  • Cervical (upper) region. This part of the spine that runs through the neck may cause symptoms to appear in the head, neck, arms and shoulders.
  • Thoracic (middle) region. The middle spine may produce symptoms around the ribs, chest or stomach. Foraminal stenosis in this area is less common due to the relative stability of this area.
  • Lumbar (lower) region. Lumbar foraminal stenosis often causes symptoms in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.

Symptoms vary on a case-to-case basis. However, pain, tinging, numbness and muscle weakness are the most common indicators of foraminal stenosis.

Possible causes and risk factors

There many possible causes of foraminal stenosis. Age-related degenerative conditions like bulging or herniated discs, hardened ligaments, arthritis or bone spurs tend to be the most common causes. Other factors such as obesity, family history, poor posture and certain lifestyle choices may also lead to foraminal stenosis, though doctors have no exact way of determining which combination of factors will lead a person to develop the condition.

Treatment options

For many people diagnosed with foraminal stenosis, conservative treatments are very effective in helping to manage symptoms and improve mobility. Options include physical therapy, spinal injections, periods of rest, hot/cold therapy and lifestyle changes like posture improvement and weight management.

If you have tried these treatment methods for weeks and months without finding the relief you need to enjoy a good quality of life, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time and a streamlined outpatient experience.^

To find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, ask a member of our team for your free MRI review.*