Foraminal stenosis is one of the three forms of spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is defined as a narrowing of the opening from which the nerves exit the spinal column and is the primary cause of pinched nerves or nerve compression. Nerve roots exit the spine through small holes on both sides of the spine called neuro foramen.Neuro foramen are surrounded by two moving spinal joints: the facet joint and spinal disc. When this foraminal opening is narrowed, it results in foraminal stenosis and causes symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the extremities and most commonly, the legs.
Bending forward or sitting may temporarily alleviate pain because the space between the vertebrae increases in these positions. It is also common for people to walk in a “hunched over” position because it helps decompress the nerves. However, becoming inactive or walking in a bent manner can lead to other problems that will worsen symptoms or create new ones altogether. When you walk in a bent position, you risk muscle strain as your body tries to keep your eyes on the horizon instead of the ground.
Foraminal stenosis is very common in the lower lumbar region of the back.
Failure to treat foraminal stenosis or other types of spinal stenosis can result in permanent nerve damage and loss of feeling.
What are the Causes of Foraminal Stenosis?
Injury to the spinal joints will result in progressive degeneration or arthritis of the joints. Arthritis of the facet joints and degenerative disc disease cause foraminal stenosis in affected areas of the spine by causing bone spurs to form (bone spurs are also known as osteophytes and are bony projections that form along joint margins as the result of overuse, trauma, or pressure), loss of disc height, facet hypertrophy, facet capsule hypertrophy and disc bulging.
These progressive structural changes all result in narrowing of the foramen and nerve root impingement.
Treatments for Foraminal Stenosis
Foraminal stenosis is treated when it causes pain or radiculopathy, which is when the nerves are not functioning properly as a result of being compressed or damaged and causing symptoms such as pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands or feet. Asymptomatic foraminal stenosis does not need treatment.
Effective treatments for foraminal stenosis include therapy, interventional pain management and surgery. The minimally invasive Deuk Laser Disc Repair is possibly the most effective surgical treatment for symptomatic foraminal stenosis and uses a laser to “open” up clogged foramen relieving pressure on the nerve root being compressed. This procedure is an endoscopic, laser assisted surgery that uses only a quarter inch incision and is performed outpatient.