The spine supports much of the upper body’s weight while protecting the spinal cord and facilitating movement. To accomplish these tasks, a complex system of stacked vertebrae, cartilage, joints, ligaments and muscles work in tandem, with each component depending upon another to function properly.
Because the spine absorbs a great deal of the stress and strain of everyday life, it is prone to degeneration over time. When one part of the spine begins to deteriorate, it can quickly affect nearby regions and cause debilitating and/or painful symptoms.
Causes. The age-related decline of the vertebral column is the primary cause of foraminal stenosis. However, many factors can exacerbate or accelerate the narrowing of the foraminal canals, including:
Herniated or bulging discs
Facet joint swelling
Sudden injuries, such as those that may result from a fall, high-impact sport or motor vehicle accident
Symptoms. The symptoms of foraminal stenosis vary depending on which area of the spinal column experiences problematic narrowing (cervical, thoracic or lumbar), as well as the severity of the problem. However, there are some general symptoms to look out for, including:
Pain and discomfort that are localized or radiate to nearby extremities
Tingling or “pins-and-needles” sensations
The inability to participate in everyday activities without encountering aggravation
Medication: Over-the-counter and prescription medications can lessen inflammation caused by foraminal stenosis. This allows patients to begin long-term treatment programs, such as physical therapy, with reduced discomfort. Localized pain-relieving injections may also be recommended and can pinpoint and then eliminate the pain of foraminal stenosis for as long as 6 months at a time.
Physical Therapy and Moderate Exercise: It may seem counterintuitive, but extended periods of bed rest are rarely beneficial for patients suffering from foraminal stenosis and can even worsen symptoms. Through targeted physical therapy and activity, it is possible to reduce the amount of strain placed upon the spine. Losing excess pounds, increasing flexibility and strengthening the abdominal muscles can all help to diminish the effects of foraminal stenosis. Professional massage may also bring many therapeutic benefits.