Foraminal stenosis, or the narrowing of the openings that allow nerve roots to exit the spinal canal, can be caused by a number of issues. For example, the foramina can be made smaller through the growth of bone spurs or from the development of a bulging or herniated spinal disc. Although many factors can lead to the development of these spinal problems, the natural aging process is often the primary underlying cause.
Age-related breakdown of joint cartilage
As the body gets older, the components of the spine, like the rest of the body, begin to dry out. This can lead to breakdown of the cartilage that lines the spinal joints, which in turn leads to bone-on-bone contact and joint inflammation that is diagnosed as spinal osteoarthritis. The increased joint friction can lead to the growth of bone spurs as a natural stabilizing response, but these protrusions can also cause narrowing in important nerve passages such as the foramina.
Natural deterioration of spinal discs
Aging also leads to the loss of water content in the discs, as well as the degradation of the elastin in their outer rings, making the discs more susceptible to damage. A bulging or ruptured disc can extend into the foramina. Age-related foraminal stenosis is natural and happens to most people to some degree, but complications can arise when the opening becomes narrow enough to compress a nerve root passing through it. A pinched nerve root can cause weakness, pain, numbness or other symptoms that travel down the nerves, potentially affecting the extremities.
Exploring your treatment options
If you have been diagnosed with foraminal stenosis, your doctor should recommend you follow a course of conservative treatments, including physical therapy or over-the-counter medication, to address your symptoms. If these treatments don’t provide you with satisfactory relief, you might begin to look into your surgical options, including the minimally invasive spine surgery performed at USA Spine Care. Our outpatient procedures use muscle-sparing techniques and are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.^ To learn more, contact our team today.
We can provide a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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