What is Neural Foraminal Stenosis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2019
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Neural foraminal stenosis is a narrowing of the openings along the spine designed to allow the spinal nerves to pass through. The narrowing can pinch and compress the nerves, causing a variety of symptoms depending on the nerves involved. This condition has a number of causes and is usually treated by doctors like neurologists and spinal surgeons. It is important to receive treatment for neural foraminal stenosis because this condition can lead to severe complications in some patients.

Anatomically, the term “foramen” or “foramina” in the plural refers to any kind of opening. The spine is carefully designed to provide maximum protection to the spinal cord, with openings to allow the spinal cord to communicate with the rest of the body. These openings, known as the neural formina, can be seen on either side of each vertebra, providing a pathway for the spinal nerves.

Also known as neural foraminal narrowing, neural foraminal stenosis can be congenital in some patients, but is more commonly acquired. As people age, it is common for the spinal cord to degenerate. Narrowing can occur as a result of growth of bone spurs and other abnormalities. It can also be linked with damage to the discs of the spine. Certain degenerative diseases are also associated with neural foraminal stenosis.


Patients can notice symptoms like numbness, tingling, burning, and shooting pains. A doctor can determine which spinal nerves are involved by interviewing the patient to find out where pain is experienced. Spinal nerves correspond to specific areas of the body and people will experience pain within specific dermatomes, areas served by individual spinal nerves. Once a doctor has identified the dermatomes involved, they can be traced back to their spinal nerve roots.

Medical imaging studies can also be helpful for identifying narrowing of the neural foramina. They can also provide information about other kinds of spinal damage and the extent of the damage to the spine. All of this information can be used to develop a treatment plan. Some options include surgery, implantation of pain management devices, physical therapy, and management of underlying disease processes contributing to narrowing of the foramina.

When discussing treatment options for neural foraminal stenosis, patients may find it helpful to ask about the prognosis with different kinds of treatments. This can help patients gain a better understanding of the options they are choosing between. It is also important to learn about risks and complications associated with neural foraminal stenosis treatment, as these issues may be important for the decision-making process.


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