What is foraminal (cervical) stenosis?

People with this condition often experience neck pain that extends to shoulder or arm. In many cases, the person also experiences tingling sensations or muscle weakness. Only after receiving an MRI, do they find out that they have Foraminal Stenosis. Since stenosis is just another word for “narrowing”, this condition involves narrowing along the top of the spine, which puts pressure on the nerves and results in pain.

There are numerous treatment avenues to pursue: physical therapy, massage, and even epidurals. However, surgery is typically recommended if the pain is unbearable and/or persists despite treatment. For many, the pain is severe enough to impact their daily lives. It can a person’s disrupt sleep cycles, limit leisure activities, interfere with their ability to go to work, or even manage routine household chores.

Since very few patients are keen on the idea of taking pain pills for the rest of their lives, many decide to meet with a surgeon. This rendezvous often ends with them being told they will a major surgery; one with bone grafts, stainless-steel plates, and screws. Some are even warned that paralysis is likely without this operation!

If Dr. Mork had to choose just one guiding rule to live by, it would be to maintain or improve a normal range of motion for all of his patients. He believes whole-heartedly that the body is a complex system designed with one purpose: to move. To that end, every surgery he completes is done with the smallest of incisions, and with the least possible disruption to nearby soft tissues.

It is through this method, an endoscopic spine surgery, that a normal and healthy range of motion is achieved. On the other hand, a surgery with bone grafts, stainless-steel plates, and screws (that is, a spinal fusion) does not involve operating directly on the problem. Instead, it’s focus is the body’s surrounding anatomy. In effect, it creates additional problems to solve the original one.

A stenosis is classically defined as the problematic narrowing of a structure. With Foraminal Stenosis, that narrowing takes place inside the foraminal canal. The canal is very much like a tunnel, and is quite bony in nature. The narrowing frequently results in the compression of delicate nerves that radiate to the arms, neck, and hands causing significant pain and discomfort. A reasonable solution, it would seem, is to stop the compression by widening the tunnel. While this may appear obvious, how you get there isn’t.

One approach is to use spinal fusion. With this technique, the spinal discs are forced apart to achieve the affect of a larger canal. Another less-invasive technique is to operate inside the canal; leaving the healthy spinal discs alone.

The less-invasive approach designed and used by Dr. Mork calls for the smallest of incisions, and with the least possible disruption to nearby soft tissues. This affords him the luxury of preserving normal range of motion for his patients, and avoiding spinal fusion.

The goal of any endoscopic spine surgery is primarily bone removal and nerve decompression. More than a decade ago, Dr. Mork began using this technique to treat conditions affecting the bones of the neck. Ever since then, his practice has focused solely on the endoscopic technique. Dr. Mork has yet to perform a single spinal fusion on any of his patients.

His technique preserves, and in some cases, increases normal range of motion for his patients. This is made possible because he operates on the problem area — not the surrounding healthy anatomy. Only abnormal bony structures are removed, so stability in the joints is maintained. Together with his associate Dr. Haufe, Dr. Mork published numerous research findings and outcome assessments. This work allowed them to document the 2yr patient follow up discussed earlier. Their findings supported the hypothesis that endoscopic spine surgery was superior to spinal fusion. The data also revealed that 85% of Dr. Mork’s patients had good to excellent results after the procedure.

These scientific findings helped steer Dr. Mork in the direction of endoscopic spine surgery; solidifying his guiding belief that minimally-invasive techniques can preserve normal range of motion. In 2011, Dr. Mork was invited to speak at an international convention in Las Vegas about his groundbreaking discoveries. His work has erased any doubt in the scientific community that a high level of patient success is possible without the use of spinal fusions. You do not have to fuse if you have foraminal stenosis.

Stopping the pain from foraminal stenosis involves a series of steps. After numerous failed attempts to manage pain radiating from the neck and shoulder, MRI findings reveal abnormal narrowing in the canal. Importantly, the next step is to identify the compressed nerve causing the pain. Occasionally, this is revealed simply by numbing the nerves so that a temporary change in pain level is apparent.

Only after a causal relationship is found, will a decompression operation be considered. Dr. Tony Mork limits his surgical incisions to no more than a quarter of an inch (about the size of a dime). Most of his patients are treated without being hospitalized, and enjoy the comforts of twilight sedation. The operation focuses exclusively on the problem area; not the surrounding healthy anatomy required to maintain normal range of motion. Learn more about how to end the relentless battle with pain from foraminal stenosis with a minimally invasive and safe outpatient procedure. Dr. Mork offers free MRI consultations and a free week-long class covering 5 important things you need to know about foraminal stenois.