Foraminal stenosis is a common type of spinal stenosis that occurs when the openings between spinal bones (foramen) become narrow or tighten. Nerve roots that pass through the foramen can become pinched, causing radiculopathy, a condition characterized by pain and numbness. St. Louis Pain Consultants can help if you suffer from foraminal stenosis. We provide pain management for chronic and severe conditions, including all kinds of spinal stenosis.
Foraminal Stenosis and Sensory Nerve Damage
Foraminal stenosis is a common type of spinal stenosis, which broadly refers to a narrowing spinal column. Spinal stenosis is prevalent among middle-aged and older people. Wear and tear can change the spine and tighten the foramen. Foraminal stenosis may also stem from bone spurs due to injury and degenerative conditions.
Nerves serving other parts of the body pass through the foramen, and when the opening narrows, the nerves may become pinched. Studies speculate that foraminal stenosis can lead to axonal injury of these sensory nerves if the condition isn’t resolved. The stenosis continues to pinch the nerves and can result in structural and functional defects in the axon (axonopathy).
Foraminal stenosis causes denervation (loss of nerve supply) in the paraspinal muscles, the three muscle groups supporting your spine. If resolved early, the affected nerves will fully recover, but severe cases can result in permanent nerve damage. Some stenosis cases can also result in loss of peripheral nerves in the extremities served by the pinched nerves.
Types of Foraminal Stenosis That Damage Nerves
Pinched nerves resulting from foraminal stenosis can occur in different parts of the spine: neck, upper back and lower back. Narrowing of the foramen in the neck (cervical stenosis) causes sharp pain in the neck, shoulder and arms. Stenosis in the upper back (thoracic stenosis) is the least common and causes pain and numbness.
Radiologists who read the MRI scans used to examine stenosis can categorize the level of narrowing into four grades. Grade 0 means no foraminal stenosis is observed, while Grade 3 implies severe foraminal stenosis with observable root collapse. Grade 1 and 2 are for mild and moderate stenosis with no changes in the nerve root.
Lumbar stenosis is the most prevalent type and affects the lower back foramen and nerves. Common symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the buttock, leg and even foot. Lumbar stenosis is sometimes referred to as sciatica because it pinches the sciatic nerves branching from the back through the hip and buttocks.
Pain Management for Patients with Foraminal Stenosis
Not all types of foraminal stenosis will result in nerve damage, but the situation may worsen with time. Patients who’ve been diagnosed with spinal stenosis need immediate treatment to prevent further damage. Diagnosis involves X-rays, MRI, CT Scans, and MRI/CT Scans with Dye.
Popular treatments for foraminal stenosis include activity modification, physical therapy, orthotics and surgery. Patients will also need pain management, which involves non-invasive approaches and medication to relieve the symptoms.
At St Louis Pain Consultants, we offer comprehensive diagnosis and custom treatment plans. Our team comprises leading and trusted doctors ready to provide maximum relief for chronic pain and other symptoms. We can help you address foraminal stenosis and nerve damage.