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Learn how foraminal stenosis is identified and treated by Laser Spine Institute’s surgeons in Cincinnati

Foraminal stenosis is the narrowing of one or more foraminal openings in the spinal column, and it is a condition that leaves many patients in chronic pain due to nerve compression. Patients suffering from this condition may benefit from further understanding of foraminal stenosis. At every level of the spine, nerve roots branch off the spinal cord and exit the spinal column through small canals. Each of these canals is called an intervertebral foramen, or foramina plural. Sometimes, a nerve root can become pinched within one of these foraminal canals, which is what causes the pain and symptoms of this condition.

Causes of foraminal stenosis

Foraminal stenosis is most commonly caused by degenerative changes in the spine, which can develop due to the natural aging process. These changes may cause spine conditions such as bone spurs, spinal osteoarthritis, a herniated disc or a bulging disc to develop, which can press into the foraminal canal and cause the space within it to narrow, resulting in foraminal stenosis. In some cases, the natural degeneration of the spine can cause foraminal stenosis to develop on its own, without the help of another spine condition pressing into the canal space.

Foraminal stenosis symptoms

Foraminal stenosis can cause pain that radiates through the peripheral nerve system into an extremity — including the thigh, calf and possibly the foot — directly along the course of a specific spinal nerve root. The pain is often deep, steady and heightened with certain activities such as sitting or walking. In addition to pain, other symptoms may include:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of reflexes

Foraminal stenosis diagnosis

Only a physician will be able to definitively diagnose you with foraminal stenosis, so it is important to schedule an appointment at the onset of sudden and unexplained neck or back pain. First, your physician will likely discuss with you your medical history and symptoms, as well as conduct a physical examination which includes tests for range of motion and nerve response in the limbs. Then, to confirm your diagnosis, you may be asked to undergo a medical imaging test like an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

Nonsurgical foraminal stenosis treatment

After your physician has diagnosed you with foraminal narrowing, he or she will prescribe a treatment plan based on individual factors like your overall health and lifestyle. For most patients, the first method of treatment is nonsurgical. Commonly recommended conservative methods used to treat foraminal narrowing include:

  • Medication — to control pain and swelling
  • Heat/cold therapy — to relieve pain and reduce swelling, respectively
  • Physical therapy — to learn stretches and exercises that may help improve your condition, as well as strengthen the muscles that support the spine

Other patients take advantage of the alternative methods of treatment available to them, the most common of which are acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, massage, yoga, Pilates and herbal supplements. You should always consult your physician before beginning a new treatment, especially herbal medication because it can interact with any current medication you are taking. For many patients, conservative and alternative treatment is sufficient in managing the symptoms of foraminal narrowing. In the event that several months of nonsurgical treatment do not provide meaningful relief, however, surgery may be recommended.

Foraminal stenosis surgery

Foraminal stenosis treatment is recommended for patients experiencing chronic pain associated with their condition and who have not experienced relief from conservative treatments. Laser Spine Institute’s state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery center in Cincinnati offers minimally invasive procedures that specialize in treating the symptoms caused by foraminal stenosis. These include:

  • Foraminotomy — relieves the symptoms of nerve root compression, or a pinched nerve, caused by bone, a disc, scar tissue, or inflamed ligaments that can be a source of foraminal stenosis
  • Discectomy — removes only the portion of herniated or bulging disc material that is pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord
  • Anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF) — removes the unhealthy disc and replaces it with a bone graft to fuse the surrounding vertebrae
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) — fusion procedures with an approach that has a minimal effect on the nerve roots

Living with the pain caused by foraminal stenosis can be debilitating. Our minimally invasive spine surgery provides a streamlined experience that eliminates hospital-associated costs. Since 2005 we have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief, and 99 percent of our patients would recommend our procedures to others.^

If you are suffering with the symptoms associated with this condition contact Laser Spine Institute today for more information. Ask about a no-cost review of your most recent MRI or CT scan* to see if you may be a candidate for one of these procedures at our Cincinnati center.