Neural Foraminal Narrowing
Neural foraminal narrowing (also called spinal stenosis) refers to a narrowing of the opening in the spinal column through which the spinal nerves exit.
What is Neural Foraminal Narrowing?
When the vertebral column narrows, spinal nerves exiting become compressed, which can lead to pain that radiates into the extremities, depending on where the compression occurs. This spinal narrowing can occur in either the lower back (lumbar spine) or the neck (cervical spine), or the mid-back (thoracic spine).
Causes of Neural Foraminal Narrowing
Neural foraminal narrowing has several causes, including illness, congenital defects, poor posture, injury or trauma, repetitive motion-related injuries, and tumors. However, by far, the most common cause is degenerative disc disease due to the natural aging process. Every part of the spine, from the intervertebral discs to the facet joints and ligaments deteriorates as we age. This deterioration can cause anatomical abnormalities that, in turn, cause nerve compression. These conditions include:
Symptoms of Neural Foraminal Narrowing
The symptoms of neural foraminal narrowing will vary depending on the severity of the narrowing. Many people have no symptoms, but once the nerves exiting the spinal cord are compressed or pinched, you may feel pain in the area innervated by the affected nerves.
Common symptoms of neural foraminal narrowing include:
- Pain in the extremities affected that goes away with rest
- Back pain that can be relieved by bending or flexing to give the nerve root more room when exiting the spinal column
- Tingling, numbness, muscle weakness, and spasms in the extremities innervated by the compressed nerve
Diagnosing Neural Foraminal Narrowing
In order to diagnose neural foraminal narrowing, your physician will ask detailed questions about your general medical history, your symptoms, and their duration. He/she may also perform a physical examination to get a clear picture of the severity of your condition, how your symptoms are affecting you, and long-term threats your condition may pose. An x-ray, MRI, or CT scan may be ordered to locate the area of impingement and determine the amount of narrowing of the spinal canal.
Treatment for Neural Foraminal Narrowing
The treatment recommended will depend on the severity and duration of your symptoms, whether they are chronic or acute and how they impact your day-to-day activities.
If you have mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor may initially recommend conservative, non-surgical treatments, such as:
- Prescription or over-the-counter pain medication
- Back strengthening exercises and stretches
- Physical therapy
- Weight loss
- Chiropractic treatment
- Ice/heat therapy to reduce inflammation
- Lifestyle changes
- Epidural corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation
If you have exhausted all conservative, non-surgical options and you still have chronic or severe symptoms that impact your everyday activities, surgery may be necessary. A spine surgeon will assess your general health and the ability to access the area to determine if you are a good candidate for surgery.
Traditional decompression surgeries and spinal fusions are highly invasive surgery options, which are advised against in general since they often involve a large incision, damage to the surrounding tissues, lengthy hospitalization and recovery.
The Bonati Spine Procedures can relieve the symptoms of neural foraminal narrowing with a small incision, no hospital stay, and short recovery period.