What is Foraminal Stenosis?

lumbar spine x-ray

The neural foramen is the opening between every two vertebrae where the nerve roots exit the spine.  The term ‘Stenosis’ means narrowing.  So in simple terms, Foraminal Stenosis is the narrowing of the opening where the nerves run through the spine.

What causes Foraminal Stenosis

This narrowing can occur for several reasons.  It is often due to degenerative changes in the spine (osteoarthritis), the formation of bone spurs (osteophytes), and herniated or bulging discs.  As the foramen narrows, the nerves can become impinged, or compressed.  This pressure on the nerve can cause it to send faulty signals in the form of pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness.

What are the symptoms of Foraminal Stenosis

The places where these symptoms are felt depends on which nerves are impinged.  Foraminal stenosis in the cervical spine may cause symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands.  Lumbar spine stenosis can cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, legs and the feet.

A very common cause of pain shooting through the lower body is compression of the sciatic nerve, leading to sciatica.  The symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness that can shoot down the buttocks, the back of the thighs and down into the feet.

The most severe symptom of Foraminal Stenosis is loss of bladder of bowel control.  This can be a medical emergency, and you need to see a doctor immediately if you experience either of these symptoms.


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