Bilateral Foraminal Stenosis

A condition where the vertebral foramen becomes narrowed is called as Foraminal stenosis. This typically happens only with the foramen on one side of the vertebrae (unilateral foraminal stenosis). Get to know what causes Bilateral Foraminal Stenosis, its symptoms and available treatment options.

What is Bilateral Foraminal Stenosis?

Foramina are generally any openings that allow nerves and blood vessels to pass through. However, in some cases, both foramina are narrowed, causing bilateral foraminal stenosis. The nerve roots that are passing through both sides of the spine through foramina get compressed as a result of narrowed foramina on both sides, this condition is called as Bilateral foraminal stenosis.

This condition is commonly seen when the spinal nerve root is compressed on both sides due to narrowing of the foramen that may be caused by a collapsed disc space, an enlarged joint or a foraminal herniated disc.

Bilateral Foraminal Stenosis symptoms

The symptoms of bilateral foraminal stenosis vary with the severity of the pressure on your spinal cord or the nerves. Here are some common symptoms of the disease.

  • Numbness – There will be times when some parts of the body (feet, thighs) and will be difficult to move or cannot be felt at all.
  • Tingling Sensation – people feel tingling (prickling or stinging) sensation in both lower limbs.
  • Certain Pain – Sometimes, people feel pain in the back, buttocks, thighs, or calves.
  • Loss of bowl and Bladder Movements – Some people have Problem with controlling urine or bowel movements.
  • Muscular Weakness – This is one of the symptoms that will catch the attention of people easily because activities become restrained once the condition becomes severe.

Diagnosis of Bilateral foraminal stenosis

The doctor asks the patient to give their recent information and also ask about the person’s medical history. Few tests will also have to be done including diagnostic imaging to diagnose Bilateral foraminal stenosis.

  • An X-ray of the spine to diagnose narrowing of the spinal canal, OA, and bone spurs
  • A CT (computed tomography) scan: This takes more detailed images of the back and spinal canal
  • An MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging): this scan helps to take pictures of the spinal cord and nerves to find out the cause of the disease
  • An EMG (electromyogram): to evaluate nerves and muscle problems
  • X-rays of the hips, blood tests, as well as some diagnostic tests, to check the circulation in your limbs and to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

Bilateral foraminal stenosis – Treatment Options

For people who are suffering from bilateral foraminal stenosis, the obvious choice is to search for possible treatment options so that they can get better. Some of the possible treatment options such as:

Over-the-counter medicines for pain relief

While you wait to see your doctor, you can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol), or simple pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Follow the package directions for how much and how often to take these drugs.

Consult with your health specialist before taking over-the-counter medication together with your normal medication. Don’t take extra doses; several products that contain pain relievers, including medicines for colds or menstrual cramps.


People who are diagnosed with bilateral foraminal stenosis may have symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness in both lower limbs (legs & feet) can come on gradually or more suddenly, depending on the cause. Physical therapy is prescribed to improve the condition of spinal muscles and strength of the spinal column.

Heat and ice therapy

This is the type of treatment done to treat the pain brought about by the condition. Do remember it is a temporary solution, but the condition will still worsen as long as it is not addressed.

Lifestyle modification

Having a strong & healthy spine and good muscles strength plays an important role in preventing spine conditions from diminishing your quality of life. Practicing regular exercises and stretching, maintaining proper body mechanics helps you to decrease your chances of bilateral foraminal stenosis.

Minimally invasive surgery

Minimally invasive surgery recommended for those patients who have mild bilateral foraminal stenosis. Some small surgeries can be done to decrease compression on spinal nerves.

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Spinal decompression surgery

When all the conservative treatments have been tried have not done anything to change patients condition, this is the recommended to discharge pressure on the spinal nerves.

Role of physiotherapy in bilateral foraminal stenosis

The purpose of physical therapy is to relieve pain and allow you to return gradually to your daily activities. In Bilateral foraminal stenosis, physiotherapy involves treatment with physical or mechanical means, such as through exercise or heat. Physical therapy may reduce pain in the soft tissues (such as the muscles, tendons, and ligaments), improve function, and build muscle strength. These treatments are generally performed by a physical therapist. He would also support you through recovery through proper guidance.

Physiotherapy techniques may include:

  • Stretching, to reduce stress on joints
  • Exercise, to strengthen muscles
  • Therapies like Cryotherapy or Ice therapy to aid pain relief
  • Heat therapy, to improve blood flow to the muscles and other soft tissues
  • Manual therapy, including soft tissue manipulation or massage, to improve or keep a range of motion
  • Exercises like walking and cycling to boost physical condition
  • Swimming or Aquatic exercises, to allow your body to exercise without pressure on the spine and improve the muscle strength
  • Education, to help you improve and maintain good posture

Exercises and techniques that may help ease the symptoms of spinal stenosis and prevent progression of the condition include:

  • Lower limb strengthening, which may help to avoid falls
  • Stretching
  • Get active and eat a balanced diet
  • Frequent changes of position, to prevent sustained postures that compress the spine
  • Proper lifting, pushing and pulling

Based on your activity level, physical flexibility, pain severity your physician or physical therapist would design a program that is specific to you.


Bilateral foraminal stenosis is a common cause of low back pain and neck pain affecting some of our young adults and many of our elderly. The diagnosis is made by history and physical examination with radiographic confirmation. Treatment goals include pain management and improvement in function, mobility, and overall quality of life. It can treat effectively in most cases non-operatively. In some cases, surgery may be an effective option.

Disclaimer provides health-related information on natural products and remedies, prescription medicines, over-the-counter drugs, hospitals and healthcare organizations. The information is provided for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a medical advice, a diagnosis or a suggested treatment.

This article was originally published on HealthClues –

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