Sometimes — but only very rarely — foraminal stenosis surgery is the right answer when very severe back pain, numbness and muscle weakness make life miserable and nothing seems to help. These symptoms may be the result of a spinal condition informally referred to by many as a pinched nerve. What’s actually happening is a problem within the spinal column, which is often a result of nothing more than the effects of daily wear and tear over time.
Many people notice various consequences of getting older throughout their bodies, and the spine is not immune to these effects, one of which may be foraminal stenosis (narrowing). Specifically, this condition develops when the openings in the spinal vertebrae (foramina) become partially blocked, or narrower. Some possible culprits include a herniated disc, bone spur, inflamed ligament or other type of age-related spinal degeneration.
Foraminal narrowing is very common and does not always cause problems. In fact, many people have it and don’t even know it. But, the foramina serve as important passageways that allow nerve roots to branch away from the spinal cord. If a blockage affects any of this sensitive nerve tissue — by irritating or pressing on it, for instance — foraminal stenosis can cause a nerve to become extra sensitive and send out incorrect signals in the form of pain, tingling, numbness, muscle spasms and weakness.
Whenever this type of discomfort strikes, it’s always important to see a physician who can get to the bottom of it. That’s because, in addition to foraminal stenosis, back pain and numbness could be caused by a number of underlying conditions.
If you have foraminal stenosis
The vast majority of people who are diagnosed with foraminal stenosis do not need surgery. With the help of a physician, many find that they are able to live quite comfortably with the condition after making some simple lifestyle adjustments. For example, some common alternatives to surgery include:
- Exercising regularly (walking, swimming and stretching are excellent low-impact options)
- Applying hot or cold compresses
- Taking pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications as needed
For people who find that they need something more, a physician might prescribe a stronger medication or spinal injection. Foraminal stenosis surgery is almost always the last resort.
If surgery is your next step
If you’ve decided to pursue surgery, you should proceed slowly. Most likely, you have more than one option, and you’ll want to make the best possible choice. For instance, USA Spine Care treats foraminal stenosis using a minimally invasive surgical approach that is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open spine procedures. If you’d like more information, contact us today.