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Foraminal Stenosis

Foraminal Stenosis

Your spine has 33 vertebral bones. In the middle and on the sides of these bones are openings that allow nerves to enter and exit. These nerves travel out to your legs, arms, and other parts of your body. The spaces where the nerves enter and exit are called foramina (singular foramen). Each foramen is formed by the facet joint (the space between two discs).  Sometimes, the foramen can become too narrow and start to compress the nerves entering and exiting. This can cause symptoms such as numbness, pain, or weakness. This is called foraminal stenosis.

Depending on where foraminal stenosis occurs in your back, it can affect other parts of your body as well. For instance, if a foramen in your neck starts to compress a nerve, you might feel painful symptoms in your upper extremities such as your arms, shoulders, and hands. If the foramen is compressing a nerve in your lower back, though, you’ll feel symptoms in your lower extremities, such as your legs, buttocks, and feet.

What Is Foraminal Stenosis?

Foraminal stenosis is a condition in which the foramina get narrow. The foramina are the passages on each side of the vertebrae through which the spinal nerve roots pass.

When the spine is healthy, there’s sufficient space for the nerve roots to pass and then move out to various body parts. But foraminal stenosis reduces this space, making it very narrow and placing pressure on the nerves. Some of the conditions we look out for during foraminal stenosis diagnosis in NJ include:

  • Severe back pain
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Numbness and tingling

What Are the Causes of Foraminal Stenosis?

Different factors can lead to foraminal stenosis, including degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and herniated discs. When changes take place due to aging and wear, the symptoms of foraminal stenosis can occur. Bone spurs can also enter the spinal canal, narrowing the space at the nerve roots.

Other causes of this condition include:

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 diagnosis 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.
  • Tests, including x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other methods to provide the doctor with clear visualization of your spine.

What do we do?

Providing a thorough diagnosis to know the cause of your pain

Using the least invasive procedure that will relieve your pain quickly

Providing effective follow-up to ensure fast recovery

Ensuring that you remain fit so that you can enjoy long-term relief from pain

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What Are Options Available for Foraminal Stenosis Treatment?

Both nonsurgical and surgical treatment options are available.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatments are usually recommended first for foraminal stenosis pain relief in NJ, and they include the following:

  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain medication, such as anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics, can help relieve pain. For severe pain, you may need to receive a prescription for stronger pain medications, like opioids and narcotics.
  • Physical therapy: Doing stretching exercises and strength training can boost flexibility, strengthen core and back muscles and increase range of motion.
  • Back bracing: Wearing a brace can provide additional spinal support if abdominal muscles are weak or when degeneration has taken place at different parts of the spine.
  • Endoscopic Foraminalplasty: A 1/4 inch incision is made in the back, which gives the surgeon access to the narrowed foramen. The spinal surgeon uses an endoscope and a high-definition camera to view the spinal cord and enlarge the foramen. You’ll be under conscious sedation, meaning you’ll be awake and comfortable throughout the procedure. This reduces any risks associated with general anesthesia.

Surgical Treatment

If nonsurgical treatment doesn’t provide the desired relief, surgical procedures may be recommended. Most of these treatments are minimally invasive procedures, including:

Surgical procedures performed at Spine Institute of North America will take pressure off the nerve and relieve the severe symptoms of foraminal stenosis. After that, we provide effective foraminal stenosis pain management for our clients in NJ until they experience a full recovery. Contact us today for more information.

More About Foraminal Stenosis

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.

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.

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

Post-Operative Recovery

Many of our patients are surprised by how quickly they are able to recover after their procedure. Most patients are able to get out of bed after about an hour and are cleared to go home just a short while later. You may have some pain at the incision site, but some patients report little or no pain. Be sure that you clear any physical labor or resumption of your normal activities with your doctor first. You might need to take some mild pain medication for a little while as your body recovers. Your doctor will give you instructions for at-home after care, including exercises to help you retain your flexibility. If you experience a high level of pain or have any other concerns, you should contact our office right away.

What Is the Long-Term Diagnosis for Foraminal Stenosis Treatment?

Certain foraminal stenosis treatment options, such as our minimally invasive surgical procedures, provide long-term treatment. The effect can last for years as long it’s followed with effective physical therapy.

What Is the Success Rate for Foraminal Stenosis Treatment?

The success rate reported for surgical treatment like lumbar laminectomy to relieve pain from foraminal stenosis is quite high. After a laminectomy, about 80 percent of the patients will have a marked improvement in their ability to perform their normal daily activities. The discomfort and pain, including arm and leg pain connected with the condition, also diminish rapidly.

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How Long Does It Take to Recover After Using One of the Foraminal Stenosis Treatment Options?

Recovery time is just a few weeks after the operation for a minimally invasive surgical procedure. Most people can return to their daily activities within three to four weeks. This option is unlike open spine surgery, which could take up to 12 months to heal.

During this short period, you’ll need to see your doctor for post-operation visits. They will examine the surgical site to ensure that it’s healing quickly. You’ll also have to go through a process of physical rehabilitation with the help of a physical trainer.

To schedule an appointment and speak with knowledgeable specialists, contact us at Spine Institute of North America

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