Foraminal Stenosis

Leading a physical and active lifestyle has many health benefits.

However, engaging in activities like running or physically demanding work can also have a slow and gradual impact on your spine. The wear and tear on our spine can result in foraminal stenosis, narrowing, and spinal nerve impingement. This spinal condition can produce painful symptoms that disrupt our busy lives. Foraminal stenosis most commonly affects the neck area and the low back as well.

When you have unexplained neck or back pain, it’s time to turn to the specialists at Desert Institute for Spine Care. Our team consists of doctors who treat foraminal stenosis at our many centers in Arizona. You’ll soon find the relief you need to restore your lifestyle and enjoy life again.

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What Is Foraminal Stenosis?

Each of the vertebral bones that comprise your spinal column has a large central opening for the spinal cord called the spinal canal. There are two passages (one on each side) at each level of the spine between two vertebrae through which spinal nerves branch off the spinal cord and exit. The spinal nerves extend out to our body, arms and legs to communicate movement and perception of pain. The passages through which these nerves enter and exit are called foramina.

Foraminal stenosis is a condition caused by narrowing of the foramina. When these small openings become too narrow, they can compress or pinch the nerves and cause inflammation, leading to uncomfortable or painful symptoms.

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Where does it hurt?

Depending on the site of the foraminal stenosis in your spine, it can also affect other parts of the body. For example, narrowed foramen in the neck can compress the nerve and cause you to experience painful symptoms in your shoulders, arms and hands. Foraminal stenosis in your low back can cause you to experience pain in your buttocks, legs, and feet.

What Causes Foraminal Stenosis?

The primary cause of the degeneration of the spinal column which leads to foraminal stenosis is aging. However, these changes can also occur due to wear and tear from high-impact activities or holding your spine in certain positions.

Other factors and causes that can contribute to narrowing the space around the nerve roots include:

  • Bone spurs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Calcified or thickened spinal ligaments
  • Tumors

Obesity, smoking, inactivity and improper nutrition can also put patients at a higher risk for foraminal stenosis.

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Model of human spine and neck showing foraminal stenosis

Symptoms of Severe Foraminal Stenosis

There are a number of different symptoms associated with foraminal stenosis. The symptoms you experience will depend on how narrow the foramen has become, how compressed the affected nerves are and where the condition manifests in your spine.

Patients with lumbar foraminal stenosis symptoms usually complain of pain in the buttock, thigh, leg or foot. If the foramen in the neck is affected, symptoms will likely manifest in your shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.

The most common symptoms of foraminal stenosis include:

  • Dull, sharp or radiating pain
  • Weakness or numbness in your arms or legs
  • A burning, tingling or pins and needles sensation
  • Difficulty standing straight or walking in a line

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Doctor pointing out areas on a human spine model
Detailed drawings of the spine and other bone areas of the human body.

Foraminal Stenosis Diagnosis

At DISC, we carefully assess your symptoms and review your condition so that we can provide you with an accurate and thorough diagnosis. Using Personalized Pain Diagnostics (PPD), we apply the latest technology to determine if foraminal stenosis is the source of your pain. We then provide you with all the information you need to make an informed, realistic decision. Our goal is to listen and understand in order to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses your pain at its source.

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Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Foraminal Stenosis in Arizona

We specialize in a wide range of treatments and minimally invasive procedures that can release the pressure on your spinal cord and relieve symptoms. Depending on your symptom severity and diagnosis, we always recommend conservative treatment options before any surgical intervention. Our specialists may suggest:

  • Medication such as anti-inflammatories
  • Cold and heat therapy to increase blood flow and address inflammation
  • Spine strengthening exercises or physical therapy
  • Therapeutic injections

Surgical Options for Foraminal Stenosis

If you are still experiencing pain after conservative treatment methods are exhausted, a surgical solution is the next logical step. We are leaders in endoscopic spine surgery, which uses a small keyhole incision that is less than 1/4 inch in the size. Unlike most surgeons who may utilize an MIS spine fusion, our endoscopic surgeons can selectively target the foraminal stenosis with an endoscopic foraminoplasty procedure. This endoscopic surgery can visualize the affected pinched nerve and use a laser or motorized burrs to decompress and free the nerve without a spinal fusion.

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Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Find Foraminal Stenosis Doctors in Phoenix, AZ and the Surrounding Area

The spine surgeons at DISC look forward to helping you achieve relief from foraminal stenosis so you can live your life free from painful symptoms. Contact us today to learn more about our world-class treatment options for foraminal stenosis.


Our spine health blog features up-to-date spine education and expert spine tips from our spine specialists here at DISC.

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