With back pain affecting roughly eight out of every 10 individuals at one point or another, it is not surprising that the causes of that discomfort are quite varied. However, there are certain conditions which seem to cause a greater proportion of back complaints than others, and it is important for sufferers of such afflictions to gain a thorough understanding of the true source of their difficulties.
Along the length of everyone’s spine are a series of nerve roots which ultimately make their way out of the spinal column via small, “foraminal” canals. When these canals begin to narrow, the affliction is broadly referred to as stenosis.
A normal, healthy spine will be characterized by sufficient space for the nerve routes to pass through these canals, but as patients age, the canals can be blocked with debris which causes dangerous narrowing of the passageway and compresses the critical nerves.
All those experiencing the inconvenient, painful and unfortunately all too common symptoms of foraminal stenosis owe it to themselves to seek effective treatment for their spinal injuries as soon as possible.
How Narrowing of the Foraminal Canals Can Occur
For many sufferers of this condition, the root cause is nothing more serious than simple aging. Years of physical activity and general wear and tear on the body is often all that is required to cause an accumulation of debris within the foraminal canals and accompanying nerve compression. Other common causes of this type of stenosis can include:
- Bone spurs
- Herniated discs
- Inflamed tissue
- Calcification of ligaments
- Misalignment of vertebrae
- Traumatic injuries
- Repetitive use injuries
- Weight gain
- Genetic factors
Key Characteristics of Narrowed Foraminal Canals
While it is possible for foraminal narrowing to occur in any portion of the spine, it tends to develop most frequently in the lumbar and cervical regions. Symptoms often encompass radiating pain that travels down through the thigh to the calf, sometimes even toward the foot. Specific types of movement may trigger or exacerbate this type of serious discomfort. Accompanying symptoms may include tingling, numbness, weakness, and a feeling of being stuck by pins and needles. For some patients, the effects are relatively minor, but in severe cases, reflex abnormalities and paralysis can occur. Mobility loss can be profound, and quality of life can be reduced in dramatic fashion.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Patients suspected of suffering from this type of stenosis typically have their diagnosis confirmed by means of a CT scan with myelogram or an MRI. In contrast to many other common back conditions, nonsurgical approaches to foraminal canal narrowing often fail to provide significant benefits.
Though more conservative treatments involving physical therapy, stretching, and pain management medication are often attempted, patients who do not derive substantial relief will likely be offered surgical intervention.
A foraminotomy is typically performed in order to create more space for nerves previously compressed by undue narrowing of the canals. The process of decompression may be done endoscopically or as open back surgery, depending on the needs of the patient.
Endoscopic surgery for foraminal stenosis is the preferred route for increasing numbers of individuals, given that it is minimally invasive in nature, can generally be performed as an outpatient procedure, and frequently requires a much shorter recovery period than traditional spinal surgery.
Because no muscles need to be cut in order to reach the narrowed canals, nearby tissues are undisturbed and pain relief, as well as resumption of mobility, can be achieved much more rapidly.
Real Answers for Those with Foraminal Stenosis
Because the effects of narrowed foraminal canals can be such a hindrance to leading an active, healthy lifestyle, it is incumbent upon those affected by the condition to seek proven, medically effective solutions. If you would like to learn more about the minimally invasive treatment options we provide, contact us today.