Cervical foraminal stenosis
In the neck, the foramen are the holes on either side of the vertebrae where the nerves exist the spinal cord and go out into the body. Obviously these holes need to be large enough so the nerves can pass through and not become pinched or compressed. Cervical (neck) foraminal stenosis implies that the holes have become smaller and now the nerves are getting pinched as they pass through. The usual way this stenosis occurs is through the loss of intervertebral disc height (they aren’t as think) as we age. This is a normal part of aging, but for some more than others. As we age our intervertebral disc become thinner and these act like the spacers between vertebrae. Without thick spacers (discs) our vertebrae sit too close to each other and there isn’t much room in between for our nerves to pass. Other reasons in the neck for the foramen to become smaller is arthritis and bone spurs or a slipped disc that bulges into the foraminal space.
Symptoms of Cervical Foraminal Stenosis
The most common feature of cervical foraminal stenosis is neck pain. This particular cause of neck pain develops slowly. Foraminal stenosis typically does not cause an acute episode of neck pain, unless it is an acute flare up of a pre-existing issue. Neck pain may develop over many years. Neck pain associated with cervical foraminal stenosis is not continuous and is related to different position of the neck. Usually patients will struggle to lay on their back with their neck in an extended position and will need quite a few pillows to open up the spaces (foramen) in the neck.
Treatment of cervical foraminal stenosis
The treatment of cervical foraminal stenosis really depends on how advanced it is. In some cases conservative treatments from our chiropractors and physiotherapists will be more than enough to control any symptoms. Typically this will reduce pain and bring about normal function, however if the foraminal stenosis is bad enough surgery will be the best form of treatment. Surgery decompresses the vertebrae or makes the holes (foramen) in the neck bigger so there is less compression on the existing nerve roots. At Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) we specialise in the non-surgical treatment of neck pain and offer you a clear plan on how best to treat your neck pain. We work closely with medical doctors and specialists such as surgeons and radiologists in a team based approach to neck pain to ensure you are getting the best in neck pain treatment.