The narrowing of the foramina or tiny apertures between each vertebra in the spine through which nerve roots flow is referred to as neural foraminal stenosis.
Neural foraminal stenosis, a kind of spinal stenosis, is not necessarily symptomatic. However, this will hurt if a nerve becomes crushed in the space.
Non-steroid anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), which are available over the counter, may be helpful, and physicians may also prescribe treatments that can reduce nerve pain.
All regions of the body send nerves to the spinal canal. The nerve roots ascend the spinal cord to the brain via spaces between the vertebrae known as the foramen.
The nervous system reacts to sensory input and sets out responses.
For instance, when a person experiences pain, the nerves transmit signals that cause the muscles to contract away from the painful area while also alerting the brain to the discomfort.
Each nerve cell or neuron consists of a cell body, numerous dendritic extensions, and an axon. The axon, which may be up to a metre long, carries impulses that are picked up by the dendrites and sent along it. Through the spinal neuron network, all signals are sent to the brain.
When the foramen of the neck (cervical stenosis), the upper back (thoracic stenosis), or the lower back (lumbar stenosis), compress or narrow, trapping the nerve root, this condition is known as neural foraminal stenosis.
Spinal stenosis may take the form of neural foraminal stenosis or neural foraminal narrowing. It happens when the neural foramina, which are tiny spaces between the bones in your spine, tighten or constrict.
Compression of the nerve roots that leave the spinal column via the neural foramina may cause pain, numbness, or weakness.
If symptoms do manifest, they usually do so on the side of the body where the pinched nerve root is located. For example, the symptoms of left neural foraminal stenosis are often felt on the left side of the neck, arm, back, or leg.
Bilateral neural foraminal stenosis is the medical term for when the foraminal canal narrows on both sides.
What are the symptoms of neural foraminal?
Symptoms of mild neural foraminal stenosis are often nonexistent. If a nerve root is squeezed as a result of the neural foramen being too small, it may result in:
- back or neck pain
- numbness or weakness of the hand, arm, foot or leg
- shooting pain going down the arm
- sciatica, a shooting pain that travels from your lower back through your buttocks and into your leg
- weakness of the arm, hand, or the leg
- problems with walking and balance
Typically, the symptoms will appear gradually and worsen with time. They may affect either one side of the spine or both. The location of the narrowing and nerve pinching in the spine may also affect the symptoms:
- Cervical stenosis occurs in the neural foramina of the neck.
- Thoracic stenosis occurs in the upper portion of the back.
- Lumbar stenosis develops in the neural foramina of the lower back.
What are the causes of neural foramen?
When the openings between your spine's bones become too small, it may lead to neural foraminal stenosis. Age is a risk factor for neural foraminal stenosis.
This is due to the possibility of narrowing brought on by regular ageing-related wear and tear. The height, dryness, and bulging of spinal discs all decrease with age.
Injury and underlying diseases may also cause the syndrome in younger people.
There are many causes of neural foraminal stenosis.
- bone spurs from degenerative conditions, like osteoarthritis
- being born with a narrow spine
- a skeletal disease, such as Paget’s disease of the bone
- a bulging (herniated) disk
- thickened ligaments near the spine
- trauma or injury
- scoliosis, or an abnormal curve of the spine
- dwarfism, such as achondroplasia
- tumours (rare)
How is it treated?
Depending on how severe the disease is, neural foraminal stenosis may need treatment. If your symptoms are minor, your doctor may advise keeping an eye on your health to make sure it doesn't worsen. Possibly a few days of relaxation are in order.
Your doctor could advise using medicine or physical therapy to manage your symptoms if they are troublesome.
The following list of drugs may be used to treat the signs and symptoms of neural foraminal stenosis:
- Naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Advil), or acetaminophen are examples of over-the-counter painkillers (Tylenol)
- prescription painkillers like hydrocodone or oxycodone (Roxicodone, Oxaydo) (Vicodin)
- Anti-seizure drugs like pregabalin and gabapentin (Neurontin) may aid with nerve discomfort (Lyrica)
- injections of corticosteroids to lessen inflammation
Along with strengthening the muscles around the affected area, physical therapy may also help you move more freely, stretch out your spine, and improve your posture. Your doctor could suggest that you wear a cervical collar as a brace to treat cervical stenosis.
Your neck's muscles may relax and the squeezing of its nerve roots is lessened thanks to this comfortable, cushioned ring.
Surgery can be required if your symptoms are severe in order to enlarge the neural foramen that is pinching your nerve.
An endoscope is often used to do this minimally invasive surgery. A very little incision is all that the surgeon needs to make. The process could involve:
- Removal of the bone spurs, scars, or ligament causing the constriction is done by laminotomy or laminectomy.
- Enlarging the foramina is known as a foraminotomy.
- Laminoforaminotomy, which combines these two techniques
Your doctor could conduct surgery to remove the disc if you have a herniated disc.
Are there any complications?
Despite being uncommon, neural foraminal stenosis may result in:
- permanent weakness
- urinary incontinence (when you lose control of your bladder)
When to see a doctor
If discomfort or numbness that radiates down your arm or leg lasts more than a few days, you should see your doctor. Immediately seek medical help if any of the following take place:
- The pain comes after a severe injury or accident.
- The pain suddenly becomes severe.
- You can’t control your bladder or bowels.
- Any part of your body becomes weak or paralyzed.
The majority of neural foraminal stenosis instances get well on their own or with non-invasive remedies used at home, such as painkillers, light yoga, and physical therapy.
Although it is not often required, surgery is thought to be the only effective treatment for neural foraminal stenosis.
Most individuals may resume their normal activities after surgery in a matter of days, although heavy lifting may need to be avoided for a few months.
Although foraminal procedures are often highly successful, future spinal issues are still conceivable.
Additional resources and citations
- 1foraminal stenosis.