There are tiny openings located down the length of your spine that allow nerves to pass from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. These openings are called “foramina,” and there are two foramina located at each level of the spine (one leading toward the left side of the body, and one leading toward the right). When something compresses the foramina — whether it may be a bulging disc, a bone spur or some other tissue — it irritates the nerves within, causing a number of unpleasant symptoms to develop.
There are many foraminal narrowing types, including unilateral narrowing and bilateral narrowing. When someone is living with unilateral foraminal narrowing, only one of the foramina at a certain level of the spine is compressed. With bilateral foraminal narrowing, however, both foramina at that level are compressed. The primary difference between these two forms is that bilateral narrowing causes symptoms to develop on both sides of the body. As such, here are four ways that you can tell if you’re experiencing bilateral foraminal narrowing:
- You’ll feel pain on both sides of your body
- You’ll experience tingling on both sides of your body
- You’ll feel numb on both sides of your body
- You’ll experience muscle weakness on both sides of your body
The location where you’ll experience these symptoms depends on the location of the narrowing within the spine. Because the foramina within the cervical (upper) spine house nerves that extend into the upper extremities, for example, narrowing in those foramina may cause symptoms to manifest in the arms and hands. Likewise, because the foramina within the lumbar (lower) spine contain nerves that extend into the lower extremities, any narrowing in that section may lead to symptoms in the legs and feet.
If you’ve received a bilateral foraminal narrowing diagnosis, you may want to try relieving your pain using conservative techniques before turning to surgery. Your physician will be able to tell you if conservative treatments are appropriate, and if so, which ones have the best chance of improving your condition. If conservative methods are unable to bring you relief, however, you may require surgery. At USA Spine Care, we offer a minimally invasive foraminotomy, during which we remove the material that is compressing your foramina. Please contact us today to learn more. We can also help you receive a free MRI review* to determine whether you may be a candidate for our minimally invasive surgeries.
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