Foraminal Stenosis Overview Foraminal Stenosis Causes and Symptoms Foraminal Stenosis Diagnosis and Treatments

Causes of Foraminal Stenosis

The foramen is an opening in your spine that allows the nerves to enter and exit. This opening can become narrowed due to several factors, including:

  • Age
  • Trauma to the spine
  • Degenerative disc diseases
  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Bone spurs
  • Calcified ligaments
  • Spinal arthritis

When the foramen narrows, it can compress the nerves or even the spinal cord. This is called foraminal stenosis. This compression can create a great deal of pain. The condition is more common in the lumbar (or lower) region of the back, and patients who are over the age of 55 are more at risk. It’s a condition that can affect both man and women of any age, though, and can become a seriously painful and debilitating condition.

You may be at great risk of foraminal stenosis if you are:

  • Obese
  • A smoker
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • Don’t get the right nutrition

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MRI image of foraminal stenosis or narrowing; Vertebral bodies L3 and L4 are listed. The red circles highlight the foramen and show severe impingment of the exiting nerve.

Symptoms of Foraminal Stenosis

There are a number of different symptoms that can manifest when you are suffering from foraminal stenosis. What symptoms you experience will depend on how compressed the nerves are and how narrow the foramen has become, as well as in what area of your back the condition is manifesting. If it is a foramen in the neck that is affected, you might experience symptoms in your arms, shoulders, fingers, and neck. If the condition is in the lumbar region of the spine, you might experience symptoms in the knee, thighs, feet, buttocks, toes, and back. These symptoms can include:

  • Pain that is either sharp or dull
  • Trouble standing
  • Difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Weakness in our legs and arms
  • Burning or a “pins and needles” sensation

Diagnosing Foraminal Stenosis

Your spine specialist at Spine Institute of North America will work with you to give you an accurate and thorough diagnosis of what is causing your back pain. An accurate diagnosis is vital to help you get the treatment that you need. In order to reach that diagnosis, your doctor will guide you through a comprehensive diagnostic process which could include the following:

  • Getting your medical history, including your current symptoms and previous treatments.
  • Doing a physical examination. The doctor will look for signs of limited movement, issues with balance, muscle weakness, or spinal cord damage.
  • Diagnostic tests, including x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other methods to provide the doctor with clear visualization of your spine.
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