Foraminal Stenosis

Foraminal Stenosis

A spinal condition in which the foraminal canal is narrowed by bone, vertebral disc material, and other abnormalities caused primarily by aging.

What is Foraminal Stenosis?

  • Foraminal stenosis is when the foramen is constricted and compressed against the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves. The foramen is the opening between the spinal vertebrae and spinal nerve exits.
  • Aging and wear and tear may cause foraminal stenosis among patients 55 years and older. It may also affect younger patients, as low as teenagers. Foraminal stenosis may affect any area of the spine, develops over a period of time, and may mimic other types of spinal conditions.
  • Symptoms experienced among patients vary depending on the area of the spine affected. The most common symptoms include dull, sharp, or radiating pain, weakness or numbness in the extremities, sensations of burning or pins and needles, and difficulty walking or standing straight. Treatments usually heal the conditions that caused foraminal stenosis.
  • Foraminal stenosis is similar to spinal stenosis, in which narrowing of an opening affects the spinal canal and/or spinal nerves.

What causes it?

Foraminal stenosis may develop in the different areas of the back, but is more commonly found in the lumbar (lower back) section of the spine. Compression against the spinal nerves and/or spinal cord and inflammation of the spinal tissues is what causes the pain and other symptoms related to foraminal stenosis.

Some common spinal conditions that may constrict the foramen include bone spurs, bulging or herniated discs, calcified ligaments and bones, and spinal arthritis. Age and long-term spinal disease may further affect the foramen.

Although the average age of the patient with foramen stenosis is 55 years and older, the disease may affect men and women of varying ages and physical activity levels. Higher risk patients are those who smoke, are obese, have a sedimentary lifestyle, and lacks proper nutrition.

Foraminal stenosis symptoms vary on which section of the spine is affected. For cervical (neck) foramen, pain may be in the neck and/or shoulders, may radiate to the arms, hands, and fingers, and may be numbing, sharp, tingling, or burning. Foraminal stenosis in the lumbar area may cause pain in the lower back, may radiate to the buttocks, legs, calves, feet, and toes, and may be numbing, sharp, or tingling.

How do you treat it?

Patients diagnosed with foraminal stenosis may be initially prescribed rest, physical therapy, massages, pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and/or steroidal injections. These conservative methods of treatment are usually recommended before surgery is discussed.

The procedure that is commonly done to treat foraminal stenosis is called a foraminotomy. This procedure alleviates pressure on the nerves and/or spinal cord. It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a small incision is made in the back, around the affected area. During the procedure, the surgeon removes whatever is constricting the foramen, reliving root compression.

If you would like more information on foraminotomy, and you feel you may be a candidate for the procedure, please send us your MRI scan here and we will review it for free.