Foraminal narrowing of the spine occurs when the foraminal canal — the canal through which nerves exit the spine — narrows and becomes constricted, often by other spine material like a herniated disc or bone spur. This condition commonly occurs as a result of the natural deterioration and weakening of the spine with age, though sometimes this condition develops in relation to injury or trauma.
While the foraminal narrowing does not cause any pain or symptoms on its own, it does create a high risk for nerve compression in the spine. This passageway is the opening through which the nerve roots in the spinal canal travel to the rest of the body. Therefore, if this passage becomes constricted or narrows, there is a high risk that a nerve root will become trapped. A trapped or compressed nerve root can cause severe, chronic pain that occurs not only at the site of the nerve compression but also through the length of the nerve pathway into the extremities.
The symptoms of foraminal narrowing include:
- Muscle weakness
If you have been experiencing chronic pain that sometimes causes your arms or legs to tingle or feel weak, you should schedule an appointment with your physician to ask about foraminal narrowing and related degenerative spine conditions that may be causing nerve compression. Being able to recognize the symptoms of foraminal narrowing can help you identify the condition quickly and begin treatment before the pain worsens.
Conditions affecting the foramina
A number of degenerative spine conditions can cause a narrowing of the foramina, including:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Bulging disc
- Collapsed disc
- Bone spurs
As the spine weakens with age, and other factors like obesity and inactivity create additional pressure on the spine, the discs and joints can wear down and cause misalignment. For example, when a facet joint deteriorates, the two surrounding vertebrae rub together with every pivot and movement of the spine. This can cause a bone spur to grow next to the joint, which can narrow the available space in the foraminal canal.
Once your physician identifies the cause of your foraminal narrowing, he or she can begin to recommend the best treatment options to fit your needs and your lifestyle.
Treating foraminal narrowing
In many cases, the discomfort caused by foraminal narrowing can be relieved through conservative methods of treatment. These treatments are designed to help relieve pressure on the pinched nerve by lengthening and realigning the spine and by strengthening the surrounding muscles to help support and hold the spine in alignment.
Common conservative treatments used for foraminal narrowing include:
- Pain medications
- Physical therapy
- Hot/cold therapy
- Lifestyle changes
Many patients also explore alternative therapies such as chiropractic care, yoga, Pilates and acupuncture. You should always consult your doctor before beginning a treatment plan for neck pain, back pain or related symptoms.
If you are still suffering from the same level of pain and symptoms after several months of physician-directed conservative treatment, you may consider spine surgery to treat your condition. Patients in this situation should contact USA Spine Care to learn about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery.
At USA Spine Care, we offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional procedures.^ Our procedures use a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, allowing patients to experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication compared to undergoing a traditional open back surgery.
When you reach out to us, our dedicated team can help you receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.
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