Foraminal narrowing (also called foraminal stenosis) refers to the narrowing or tightening of the small openings (called foramen) between the bones in the spine. The condition is a specific type of spinal stenosis and causes neck and shoulder pain that radiates down into the arms. Effective treatment for this condition is available in pain management centers in Brooklyn, NYC.
When narrowing or stenosis occurs in the foramina, the space available for the nerve roots to pass gets reduced. Most cases of foraminal stenosis occur due to the gradual bodily deterioration associated with the aging process. However, narrowing of the foraminal canals can be accelerated by other factors such as bone spurs, spondylolisthesis, herniated discs, facet joint swelling, spinal injury, ligament thickening and spinal joint enlargement.
The symptoms associated with this spinal condition may vary depending on which area of the spinal column–cervical, thoracic or lumbar–experiences the problematic narrowing. The general symptoms of foraminal narrowing include –
- Tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations
- Muscle weakness and numbness
- Pain and discomfort that are localized or radiate to nearby extremities
- Unexplained symptoms in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands, feet and lower back
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of this spinal condition begins with a detailed and comprehensive evaluation of patient’s medical history, current symptoms and physical state. Advanced diagnostic imaging tests such as MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan (computed tomography), bone scans, electromyography, and nerve conduction studies may be used to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.
Treatment can range from non-invasive methods to surgery. When diagnosed at an early stage, nonsurgical treatment modalities and lifestyle changes can provide effective pain relief. In fact, multispecialty healthcare centers in Brooklyn offer the following nonsurgical pain management options for foraminal stenosis:
- Physical therapy (PT) exercises – Physical therapy exercises help reduce the amount of strain placed on the spine. PT includes ice or heat therapy and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).
- Epidural steroid injections – Injecting a corticosteroid into the space that surrounds the nerve roots (epidural space) can help reduce the inflammation and relieve pressure on the spine.
- Chiropractic adjustment – Chiropractic treatment focuses on readjusting and aligning the spine through manual and mechanical manipulation.
Foraminal narrowing is a degenerative condition that develops with age. Even though, it is not possible to prevent its development completely, incorporating certain lifestyle modifications can help to slow it down and keep the components of the spine as healthy as possible. Here are a few tips for maintaining a healthy spine –
- Maintaining correct body posture
- Avoiding triggering activities
- Regular, gentle stretching
- Avoid pulling or lifting heavy objects
- Reduce body weight – obesity can put additional pressure on your spine
- Exercise, but avoid high-impact activities that hurt your back or neck
Since severe foraminal stenosis is usually caused by age or degeneration of the spine, it is important to get proper treatment quickly to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.