Addressing the Pain of Foraminal Spinal Stenosis

Dr. Kaixuan Liu

“Stenosis” refers to narrowing. When it occurs within our spine, it can create big problems for our central nervous system – and, of course, the rest of our body.

Sometimes a pain in the neck – or the back, for that matter – doesn’t stop there. “If patients start to experience symptoms in other parts of their bodies, it raises the possibility of foraminal stenosis,” notes Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD, a world renown endoscopic spine surgeon and president of New York/New Jersey-based Atlantic Spine Center, “a potentially serious spine condition that requires medical attention.”

“Stenosis” refers to narrowing. When it occurs within our spine, it can create big problems for our central nervous system – and, of course, the rest of our body.

“The human spine is really a feat of biological engineering,” Dr. Liu observes. “Not only does it provide support and flexibility, it also houses the nerves that carry messages from our brain to the rest of our body.”

“For those messages to reach their final destinations,” Dr. Liu explains, “our nerves need unimpeded passage, first through the spinal column and then out to the intended body part. The exits leading out from our spine are called the foramen. These tiny archways allow our nerves to make the connection between our brain and our body.”

Most of us start off with wide-open foraminal passages. But as we age, these “out” doorways may gradually narrow. “Disc degeneration, bone spurs, arthritis,” lists Dr. Liu. “There are a number of conditions that can start to close up the foramen, eventually putting pressure on the exiting nerves and causing symptoms that show up beyond the spine.”

“If the foramen of the upper spine are narrowed,” Dr. Liu continues, “patients may experience symptoms in their upper body – for example, pain, weakness or tingling in their arms – as well as problems with balance. If nerves exiting lower-spine foramen are disrupted, the lower body will be affected. Sciatica, for example, can result.”

While the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) advises that back pain is often temporary, spinal stenosis – whether of the spinal column or specific to…

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