Spinal stenosis develops when the open spaces within the spine narrow. Foraminal narrowing is a specific type of spinal stenosis that affects the bony passageways between vertebrae, called the intervertebral foramina. Spinal nerves pass through the foramina when they branch off the spinal cord and exit the spine. Narrowing of the passageways can cause nerve roots to become trapped or pinched as they make their exit. The resulting nerve compression causes pain and symptoms along the pathway the nerve innervates.
While foraminal narrowing can occur anywhere along the spine, it commonly develops in the cervical or lumbar spine.
Age-related changes are the primary cause of foraminal stenosis, as the vertebrae, spinal discs and other spinal structures begin to degenerate after years of wear and tear. Components that contribute to spinal narrowing include:
Age is the primary risk factor for developing foraminal stenosis.
Mild foraminal narrowing may not cause any pain or symptoms. Symptoms occur when the bony passageways narrow or tighten enough to trap or compress nerve roots traveling through on their way out the spine. If nerve compression occurs, you might have the following symptoms:
Foraminal stenosis symptoms usually worsen with activities and movements that place increased stress and pressure on the spine, like bending over, twisting, coughing, sneezing or laughing. Additionally, in the lumbar spine, sciatic symptoms may flare up from prolonged periods of sitting up straight, standing and walking.
Unfortunately, spinal narrowing can’t be reversed. Instead, treatment is focused on reducing pain and symptoms, maintaining spinal mobility and slowing down the progression of damage. Luckily, the nerve compression that’s causing your pain and symptoms has a good chance at resolving with a few weeks of non-surgical treatments. To begin, your doctor may prescribe some or all of the following:
Once your symptoms resolve, maintaining an active lifestyle is key to managing your condition. Regular exercise improves your strength and mobility and allows you to perform activities for longer and with less pain.
If several weeks of conservative treatments aren’t effective, surgery may be an option. A spinal decompression procedure can create more space in the spine and relieve pressure on compressed nerve roots.
At Integrity Spine and Orthopedics, we specialize in identifying, diagnosing and treating a wide range of acute and chronic back, spine and joint conditions. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons specialize in performing minimally invasive spine surgeries to reduce pain and improve mobility for patients diagnosed with spinal arthritis, degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, a pinched nerve, spinal stenosis and more.
Some of the primary benefits of minimally invasive surgery include:
If you’re experiencing back or joint pain, weakness, or a loss of mobility, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation with our team. We provide compassionate and comprehensive care to help you find relief from pain and get back to doing the activities you love.
Call us at 904-456-0017 or contact us online to request an appointment.