Neuroforamen refers to the empty space to the left and right of each vertebra that allows nerves to pass from the spinal cord to other parts of the body.
The neuroforamen can go by other terms, such as intervertebral foramen, neural foramen, or simply foramen. Occasionally the word “foramina” is used, which is the plural form of “foramen.”
As mentioned previously, the neuroforamen provides a passageway through which nerve roots can exit the spinal column and continue their path to the areas of the body they serve. Each nerve root is comprised of a dorsal nerve root and a ventral nerve root, both of which go through the neuroforamen.
Naturally, any pressure or constriction that causes the neuroforamen to narrow can transfer that pressure to the spinal nerves. This condition of narrowing is called “stenosis,” or foraminal stenosis. Foraminal stenosis can occur in the upper back (cervical foraminal stenosis), the middle back (thoracic foraminal stenosis), or the lower back (lumbar foraminal stenosis).
If nerve roots become impinged in the neuroforamen, it can interrupt or intensify the signals going through the nerve. Symptoms of constricted neuroforamen, therefore, may include the following sensations at the site of the impingement and in the areas of the body that the nerve travels to:
- A “pins and needles” sensation
- The feeling of intense heat
There are many possible conditions that can cause neuroforamen to narrow, the most common of which is intervertebral disc degeneration due to aging. As we get older, our discs begin to decay and can bulge or rupture, which can cause disc material to enter the space of the neuroforamen and expose your nerves to unwanted stress.
Once your physician is able to diagnose a spinal condition affecting one or more neuroforamen, conventional paths of treatment may be suggested, such as physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections. Acute cases of foraminal stenosis may prompt your physician to suggest open-back surgery.
Fortunately, conditions involving the neuroforamen are not something you have to put up with forever. If traditional treatments do not prove effective, and you feel that open-back surgery involves too many risks, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offer minimally-invasive, laser-assisted procedures that can help you stay active and live a life with less pain. Contact LSI today for a free MRI or CT scan review.