What is Foraminal Stenosis?
A foraminal canal or foramen is a small hole through which the nerve roots exit the spine. Foraminal stenosis refers to the narrowing of these small holes that causes the nerves exiting through them to become compressed and irritated, causing pain. The most common causes are bone spurs, disc herniation, disc bulging, arthritis, and ligament thickening.
Foraminal Stenosis Symptoms
Common symptoms of foraminal stenosis include numbness, burning, tingling, and a sensation of "pins and needles". If your neck, also known as your cervical spine, is affected, symptoms will be felt in the shoulders, arms, and hands. If a lumbar or lower back foramen is affected, the symptoms will be felt in the buttocks, legs, and feet. Muscular weakness and atrophy may begin to set in as nutrients required by the muscles become restricted from the nerve compression.
How is Foraminal Stenosis Diagnosed?
Aging disc degeneration is one of the primary causes of foraminal stenosis. As we age, our discs gradually lose their flexibility and can easily become bulged or herniated. The herniations may narrow the spaces in the spine and press on the nerves. Other foraminal stenosis causes include bone spurs, arthritis, and thickening of the ligaments.
Foraminal Stenosis Treatment Options
At Spine Centers of America, the patient comes first. We want to understand your medical history, diagnose your condition and treat accordingly. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your physician might recommend a non-surgical, conservative treatment approach or a minimally invasive laser spine procedure, if necessary.
Initially, and depending on the severity, conservative treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, activity modification, physical therapy, and exercises that target the back.
Foraminal stenosis surgery, as with other types of surgery, is generally reserved for patients who have poor quality of life due to pain or weakness. When patients complain about inability to walk for extended periods of time without resting, they are usually at the point when surgery for foraminal narrowing should be considered.
If needed, endoscopic lumbar or cervical foraminotomy are a couple of minimally invasive options . Through this procedure, a laser removes the debris that is causing the stenosis. The incision is very small and the recovery time for this procedure is minimal. However, because it involves the spine, it is strongly recommended that a board certified laser spine surgeon perform the procedure. Every physician at our comprehensive spine center is a board certified spinal surgeon.
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