What is foraminal stenosis?

The spine is composed of vertebrae, cartilage, joints, discs, ligaments and muscles that all work together to support the body and allow for movement and flexibility. The spinal canal houses the spinal cord and nerves. Foraminal passageways allow important nerves to branch away from the spinal cord so they can travel to other areas of the body.

When the foraminal passageways, or canals, begin to narrow or become obstructed it is called foraminal stenosis. Foraminal stenosis usually causes painful symptoms when the narrowing of the canal causes a pinched nerve. Symptoms include:

  • Pain that can be local or radiate toward the extremities
  • Numbness or loss of sensation
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness

The natural aging process and everyday wear and tear on the spine primarily cause Foraminal stenosis. Although age-related decline of the spine is the main cause of foraminal stenosis, any of the following can also contribute to or accelerate the narrowing of the canals:

  • Herniated or bulging disc
  • Arthritis
  • Injury or trauma
  • Bone spurs
  • Repetitive movements
  • Smoking
  • Being inactive
  • Being overweight
  • Genetics

Treatment options for foraminal stenosis

Many patients find symptom relief with conservative treatment options such as:

  • Physical therapy. Physical therapy can be used to target abdominal muscles in order to build strength and increase flexibility. Physical therapy may also include therapeutic massage, in addition to targeted exercise and stretching.
  • Pain medication. Pain medication, over-the-counter or prescription, can help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Pain medication can ease symptoms so you can fully participate in physical therapy and low-impact exercise. Your physician may even recommend steroid injections.
  • Heat and ice therapy. Alternating heat and ice can effectively reduce painful symptoms. Heat therapy helps to increase circulation while ice therapy helps to reduce swelling and inflammation.

In addition to the treatment options above quitting smoking, losing weight and practicing good posture can also help with symptoms caused by foraminal stenosis. If conservative treatment options are unsuccessful after a few months, it might be time to consider surgical options to resolve the symptoms of foraminal stenosis.

If you have been suffering from painful symptoms of foraminal stenosis, contact Laser Spine Institute for a no-cost MRI review^ and to learn how more than 75,000 patients found pain relief with our minimally invasive procedures.