The spinal cord is known to play some of the most important body functions like the transfer of signals from different body parts to the brain. Now, any injury occurring to the spine can affect all the functions plus, the affected person might also experience loss of sensation in some parts of the body.
Spinal injuries could be serious, especially, when the treatment is delayed. Sometimes, the injury is too severe that surgery is needed for the treatment, and Orthopedic Trauma Implants are used to stabilize the spine or correct the deformity.
In this post, we will talk about one of the spinal conditions known as foraminal stenosis which is known to cause several serious complications. Let us start with a brief introduction to what foraminal stenosis is.
Foraminal Stenosis – An Overview
Foraminal stenosis is a spinal condition characterized by tightening or narrowing of the openings present between the vertebrae. There could be multiple causes of this condition, and it is known to compress the nerves that pass through those openings.
The small openings between the spinal bones are known as the foramen. Being a specific type of spinal stenosis, this condition is known to be common in middle-aged and elderly people. Though people suffering from foraminal stenosis show several symptoms yet, they might not be evident in all.
Types of Foraminal Stenosis
Any part of the spine can develop foraminal stenosis, and based on that, the condition is classified into different types:
Cervical Foraminal Stenosis
This is when the openings become narrow in the cervical vertebrae. It is known to be a common form of foraminal stenosis.
Thoracic Foraminal Stenosis
When the condition affects the upper back spine, it is known as thoracic foraminal stenosis.
Lumbar Foraminal Stenosis
Lumbar foraminal stenosis is when the condition affects the lower back portion of the spine. This is another common form of foraminal stenosis.
Causes of Foraminal Stenosis
Foraminal stenosis has multiple causes, some of which include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Paget’s disease
- Spinal tumors
- Spinal injuries
- Thickening of ligaments
Symptoms of Foraminal Stenosis
Studies have found that not all people suffering from foraminal stenosis show symptoms but, the symptoms that may be noticed include:
- Neck pain
- Back issues
- Weakness in the arm, hand, foot, or leg
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Issues with maintaining balance
Diagnosis of Foraminal Stenosis
Physical examination is performed by the healthcare service provider during the diagnosis of the condition. Here, reflexes, muscle strength, pain intensity, numbness, and movement of the affected region of the spine are examined. After the physical examination, certain imaging tests are also ordered to confirm the location and severity of the condition. The tests ordered may include:
- CT Scans
- MRI Scans
- Bone Scans
- Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies
Treatment Options for Foraminal Stenosis
The treatment provided depends upon the severity of the condition and the location of the affected spine. In mild cases, the healthcare service provider first suggests physical therapy to boost muscle strength, stabilize the spine, improve range of motion, and open the space of foramen. While on the other hand, to improve pain, weakness, or numbness, activity modification is required. Medications like NSAIDs, analgesics, and steroids are also prescribed to curb pain and inflammation.
Surgery is recommended if the condition is serious or when conventional treatment methods fail to relieve the symptoms. Artificial disc replacement, foraminotomy, or Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) may be performed depending upon the situation.
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