Foraminal Stenosis Diagnosis

A proper diagnosis of foraminal stenosis is accomplished through the use of a three step process:

  • The physician will first take a detailed medical history of the patient and ask relevant questions such as, when did the pain first start? Are there any activities that increase your pain? And, are their positions that either reduce or increase your level of pain?
  • Next, the doctor will explore any other symptoms that the patient is feeling.
  • Lastly, a physical examination of the patient will be performed to test reflexes, range of motion, and what may trigger pain.

Diagnostic Tests for Foraminal Stenosis

Your doctor may have X-rays taken of your back to rule out other suspected problems such as tumors, or bone injuries. To get a better look at soft tissue that may be suspected as a cause of foraminal stenosis, an MRI may be ordered. The MRI will provide highly detailed images of soft tissue, such as the vertebral discs, or ligaments. A CT scan may help by imaging the shape, size, and nearby structures of the spinal canal. If it is suspected that the spinal cord or other nerves are being impinged on, a special dye may be injected into the spinal column before an MRI or CT scan to help better visualize this. Once diagnosis is confirmed, treatment may begin.

As foraminal narrowing begins to compress the nerves, various foraminal stenosis symptoms such as pain, numbness, pins and needles or a tingling sensation, and weakness may be felt. If the narrowing affects the nerves in your neck you may feel symptoms in your shoulders, arms, and hands. If you have foraminal stenosis in your lower back you will feel symptoms in the buttocks, legs, and feet.

How Does Neural Foraminal Stenosis Develop?

As our spine degenerates, whether due to age or other conditions, foraminal narrowing may occur as trapped debris compresses the nerves exiting through the foramen. Nerve impingement due to neural foraminal stenosis can cause nerve death, which is a serious problem. As nerves die, we experience loss of function, which may then affect our senses or sensations and motor ability.

Most cases of stenosis respond well to non surgical treatment, although if your symptoms persist and the pain is interfering with your quality of life, we may recommend a foraminotomy procedure as a treatment option.