What is Foraminal Stenosis?
Foraminal stenosis is defined as the narrowing or tightening of the opening (foramina) where the spinal nerve exit the spinal cord, and branches out to your legs or other extremities. Foraminal stenosis is a specific type of spinal stenosis.
The spinal column is made up of 33 vertebral bones. These bones are divided into 5 regions, cervical (the top 7 vertebrae), thoracic (12), lumbar (5), sacral (5) and coccygeal (4). Each of the bones in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas has a large central opening for the spinal cord. Additional openings on each side of the spinal cord, called foramens, allow the exiting nerves to branch out from the spinal cord to the arms, legs, and other parts of the body. The foramen is the space where the nerve exits, and it is formed by two facet bones (facet joint) above the disc between the vertebral bodies below the exiting nerves.
Spinal degeneration of the foramen, bone spurs, and spinal ligament overgrowth can cause a narrowing or impingement of the spinal nerves. When the foramen close in, the nerve roots passing through them can be pinched. Injuries can lead to formainal stenosis and pinched nerves. A pinched nerve can result in a condition called <i>radiculopathy</i> which is pain, numbness, and weakness in the one or both of the arms or legs, depending on whether it is cervical or lumbar radiculopathy.
Foraminal stenosis and pinched nerves can be common. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all middle-aged people suffer from some type of spinal stenosis. Many who have foraminal or spinal stenosis experience no symptoms at all. Foraminal stenosis cannot be prevented, however, by living an active lifestyle, one can maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk. Maintaining good posture while sitting, exercising, playing sports, and properly lifting heavy objects can also help prevent injury to your low back and neck.
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