Cervical Foraminal Stenosis

Cervical foraminal stenosis can affect your body, including your neck, arms, and legs. The cervical vertebrae are mobile areas of your spine and are vulnerable to foraminal stenosis. When the foramen narrows, it can exert pressure on nerves and affect your legs and gait. You may need a pain management dr to alleviate pain, which is a symptom of cervical foraminal stenosis.

What Is Cervical Foraminal Stenosis?

Cervical foraminal stenosis is a type of neural foraminal stenosis that occurs in the cervical vertebrae. The spine consists of vertebrae with openings through which nerves pass to reach other parts of the body. Cervical vertebrae are the spinal bones found in the neck area, while the neural foramen is the opening in each vertebra. The neural foramen can become narrow, resulting in neural foraminal stenosis. 

When the stenosis (narrowing) occurs in the neck region, the condition is referred to as cervical foraminal stenosis. Other types of neural foraminal stenosis include thoracic and lumbar thoracic foraminal stenosis. Thoracic stenosis affects the thoracic spine (upper back), while lumbar stenosis affects the lumbar spine (lower back). Cervical foraminal stenosis is a popular form and manifests in the following symptoms:

•    Neck pain
•    Balance and gait problems
•    Loss of bladder or bowel control
•    Numbness and weakness in the arm, leg, and foot

How Stenosis Affects Your Legs and Gait

Cervical foraminal stenosis can affect your legs and gait because it puts extra pressure on the nerves. Difficulty maintaining balance is a development in the later stages of cervical foraminal stenosis. Stenosis is gradual, so the foraminal narrowing won’t happen overnight. Early symptoms include neck pain and numbness in the arms and hands. As the foramen gets narrower, the symptoms become more noticeable.

Your arms and legs rely on nerves that branch from the spine to the muscles and tissues. The limbs and extremities that depend on the peripheral nerves suffer when these nerves are pressed. Cervical foraminal stenosis with pinched nerves likely won’t cause gait imbalance but can numb the arms and legs. The stenosis may cause changes in fine motor skills and coordination of the arms. Such symptoms require the immediate attention of a doctor.

Cervical foraminal stenosis with spinal cord compression can cause gait imbalance. You may find it challenging to maintain balance when walking in the dark. The legs will feel heavy, or you may not be able to move any faster. Spinal cord compression is a serious issue that can result in more severe symptoms and complications. The condition may cause paralysis in one or more limbs if left untreated. Some body functions may shut down.

Reversing Gait Imbalance and Leg Weakness

Cervical foraminal stenosis can affect your balance and weaken your legs and arms. If the condition remains untreated, it can worsen and may result in irreversible damage. You shouldn’t ignore any symptom of a form of stenosis. Nerves that pass through the cervical vertebrae travel down the spine to various other parts of the body. Your arms, back, hips, legs, and feet can all suffer if the spinal cord is compressed in your neck region. 

Gait imbalances and leg weakness are treatable conditions if you get early treatment. Seek medical help immediately if you experience sharp or mild nagging pain around the back of your neck. The doctor will complete a medical history review and send you to the lab for further diagnosis involving physical checks and imaging. If the stenosis is the underlying cause, the doctor will recommend any of the following treatment options:

•    Medication: Your pain management dr may prescribe NSAIDs, pain medicines, muscle relaxers, and steroids to relieve the discomfort.

•    Posture Correction: If the spine is misaligned, you may be sent to the chiropractor for spinal manipulation and realignment.

•    Activity Modification: Changing your workplace and home routines to avoid twisting, stretching, bending, and poor lifting techniques can relieve the pain.

•    Physical Therapy: Working with a therapist can help you learn different exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and blood circulation.

•    Braces: Your doctor may recommend braces to prevent further damage and provide support during recovery.

•    Surgery: If conservative non-invasive treatments fail, the doctor may recommend surgeries like cervical decompression and spinal fusion.

Working With a Pain Management Dr

Cervical foraminal stenosis can disrupt your routine and make it difficult to live a fulfilling life. If you have persistent neck or upper/lower back pain, seek a pain management dr promptly. Many forms of stenosis are degenerative, meaning the condition worsens over time. Seeking help early is the best option to relieve the discomfort, correct the issue and reverse the damage. 

By Manali