Spinal Stenosis Exercises to Avoid (and a Few to Start) - PMIR (2022)

Spinal Stenosis Exercises to Avoid (and a Few to Start) - PMIR (1)

Back pain can make all sorts of physical activities nigh unbearable. Whenever back pain flares-up considerably, our first instinct is to give ourselves a rest. While that is by no means a bad idea, it does become counterproductive at some point: our bodies tend to become shaped by what we do with them, and a lack of activity can often exacerbate causes of back pain, and make flare-ups more common rather than soothe them.

(Video) Top 5 Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Exercises & Stretches - Ask Doctor Jo

On the other hand, doing the wrong thing can greatly impact how back pain develops, and make a bad situation worse. In cases of spinal stenosis exercises, there is often a fine line between good activity and bad activity – but where good movement can greatly improve strength and stability, bad movement can lead to greater pain, and even surgery. Differentiating between the two is important.

What Is Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal stenosis refers to a significant narrowing of the spinal column. While some narrowing in the spinal column is normal, and part of the natural idiosyncrasies of the human body, any amount that begins to put pressure on the spinal cord itself can lead to flare-ups and significant pain, as well as a reduction in range of motion, lack of strength, and accompanying numbness.

Spinal stenosis can be caused by several issues, some of which are fixable through spinal stenosis exercises and a diligent lifestyle change, and some of which require a more invasive approach due to their irreversible nature. The spinal column itself is made up of bones called vertebrae, connected via spongy impact-absorbing discs, and small stabilizing facet joints. Other elements of the spinal column include ligaments, attaching to important muscles throughout the back and hips.

Changes in the bone itself, inflammation in the ligaments and discs, and injuries can all cause a narrowing of the spinal column, thereby compressing the nerves inside. If a radiologist and spine specialist has ruled out any kind of bony protrusion or removable growth, chances are that injury and/or inflammation contributed to your stenosis. It’s in such cases that certain activities can greatly help reduce pain and swelling – while others can serve to exacerbate it. Some spinal stenosis exercises and activities to consider avoiding or stopping altogether include (but not limited to):

(Video) Effective Lumbar Stenosis Exercises

1. Avoid Excessive Back Extension

One of the more common stretches we tend to engage in after a long period spent sitting or hunching over is the standing back extension, or more aptly, the standing lumbar extension. It involves standing up straight, putting your hands on your hips, and leaning back as far as you can. In a few cases, this type of compression on the back of the vertebrae may help make space for the spinal cord by pushing some inflamed tissue out of the way.

However, in most cases, it leads to worse symptoms and more pain. If you tend to experience more pain and numbness following a back extension, try to avoid that stretch – and more importantly, try to avoid any activity that causes your back to go into excessive extension, i.e. anything requiring you to bend over backward. The increased compression can make inflammation worse.

2. Avoid Long Walks or Running

Some spinal stenosis exercises are important, but too much – or the wrong kind – can be detrimental to your pain. While jogging and running are generally seen as an “easy” exercise and associated with low- or mild-impact, jogging and running usually qualify as high-impact exercise, especially if you don’t have access to a soft or loamy trail, but are instead forced to run on pavement.

The repeated trauma to the knees and spine is less than ideal. On the other hand, walking for long periods of time – or long distances, instead – can also exacerbate back pain. Consider starting with shorter, tolerable distances, and make modest increases in pace and distance without breaking into a jog.

(Video) 5 Best Exercises For Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, For Seniors - Exercises For Lower Back Pain

3. Avoid Certain Stretches and Poses

The previously mentioned back extension exists in a variety of common poses and spinal stenosis exercises, including the cobra, the bridge, most lower back exercises involving hyperextension (such as the Superman), and more. While it is certainly a good idea to strengthen the muscles of the lower back, it is far better to avoid spinal flexion or extension when doing so. Instead, look at isometric exercises that revolve around stabilizing the back, and keeping it stiff against an outside force.

4. Avoid Loading a Rounded Back

Free weights can be a great boon to someone with back pain, provided they are working with a professional and have received prior clearance from their doctor. Certain exercises can greatly strengthen the muscles that support the spine and make it easier to maintain a healthier posture in a variety of activities and positions. Free weight exercises can also help you address unilateral imbalances in your body, such as uneven strength in the legs, hips, shoulders, and arms, which can translate into more back pain.

But when performed incorrectly, free weight exercises can easily lead to injury. One such example is any exercise requiring hip hinging, from bent over rows and flies to the deadlift. Any rounding in the back can greatly destabilize the muscles around the spine, and cause shearing forces to impact the spine, affecting the discs. Be sure to work your way up in difficulty and weight one step at a time, to avoid any excessive force on the back.

5. Avoid Too Much Bed Rest

It’s tempting to lay in bed whenever possible, but too much bed rest will only serve to atrophy your muscles and place further strain on your back and contribute to inflammation. Staying active can help you reduce pain and improve your quality of life, at the cost of a few minutes a day spent sweating and moving.

(Video) Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Rehab (Education | Exercises | Surgery | Myths)

6. Avoid Contact Sports

While it’s good to get active, try to stick to sports that avoid sudden impact and contact. Martial arts, football, basketball, and soccer are just some examples of sports where healthy training can very quickly lead to a sudden tear or fracture, especially when you come into physical contact with others.

Spinal Stenosis Exercises and Activities to Do More Of

Spinal stenosis is a serious spinal condition that requires a medical diagnosis and a course of treatment. But when that course of treatment permits the use of physical therapy and exercise as a preferred alternative to something potentially more invasive, there are many options available to you depending on the nature and severity of your condition. Some things to consider include:

1. Consult a Physical Therapist

First and foremost, you should get in contact with a reputable physical therapist with a history of working with patients with back pain, especially spinal stenosis. They may be able to help you find spinal stenosis exercises or activities that suit your interests and circumstances.

2. Strengthen the Core and Hips

Building a strong base for the spine is important when approaching an exercise plan. Strengthening the muscles of the core and hips without compromising the integrity of the spine is key. Planks, side planks, unilateral carries, lunges, and gentle twists are just some examples of spinal stenosis exercises that could greatly improve strength without putting the spine in a position that might lead to more pain.

(Video) What is Cervical Stenosis? | Jeffrey Cantor, MD

3. Consider Swimming and Water Exercise

Training in the water can help take the stress off the spine and joints, and it provides a way for some patients to get moving and get some endorphins flowing through them without putting undue stress on arthritic joints and a painful back. Spinal stenosis is a condition that requires medical treatment first and foremost but may be helped considerably by observing a few physical dos and don’ts.

Related

FAQs

What activities make spinal stenosis worse? ›

This can worsen back pain and neurological symptoms from spinal stenosis. While short walks are considered a good option for exercise with spinal stenosis, it's wise to avoid prolonged walks. Due to muscle fatigue, long walks can increase the strain on your lumbar spine. This can lead to increased compression and pain.

How do you prevent spinal stenosis from progressing? ›

What can I do to prevent lumbar spinal stenosis?
  1. Get regular exercise. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support your lower back and helps keep your spine flexible. ...
  2. Maintain good posture. Learn how to safely lift heavy objects. ...
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.

Can exercise worsen spinal stenosis? ›

If you are in pain from spinal stenosis, you probably don't even want to think about exercising. However, as counterintuitive or impossible as it sounds, exercise, stretching, and movement can help relieve your spinal stenosis pain. Exercise, stretching, and movement can help relieve your spinal stenosis pain.

What causes spinal stenosis to flare up? ›

Generally, spinal stenosis isn't progressive, meaning that it doesn't gradually worsen over time. However, certain factors can worsen spinal stenosis or lead to more frequent pain flare-ups, including poor posture, smoking, being overweight, and being physically inactive.

Is Climbing stairs good for spinal stenosis? ›

As you've discovered, spinal stenosis does sometimes make it extra painful to walk uphill or climb stairs. Both of those activities cause you to lift your leg higher than normal, and depending on where your nerves are being pinched, this movement can put more pressure on the nerves.

What is the newest treatment for spinal stenosis? ›

What are interspinous spacers? Interspinous spacers are a new approach to treating spinal stenosis that work gently and in a targeted way by opening the spinal canal to create room and reduce pressure on crowded nerves.

Can you reverse spinal stenosis naturally? ›

While spinal stenosis can't be reversed, treatment is available to address your pain.

What is the best massage for spinal stenosis? ›

Massage therapy for spinal stenosis

Deep tissue massage can help to release built-up tension in muscles, tendons and ligaments, greatly releasing the pressure on the spine. Swedish massage, a gentler form of massage, can also be used to gently relax the muscles and calm the nervous system.

What is the best treatment for spinal stenosis at l4 and l5? ›

One of the most effective treatments for treating lumbar spinal stenosis is a procedure called laminectomy. This treatment removes part of the vertebra that's putting pressure on your nerve.

What is the best sleeping position for spinal stenosis? ›

Many people with spinal stenosis find the most comfort sleeping on their side in “fetal position” — that is, with knees curled up toward the abdomen. Another alternative is to sleep in an adjustable bed or recliner that allows the head and knees to remain elevated.

How do you sit with spinal stenosis? ›

When sitting, avoid leaning forward, make sure there is proper lumbar support for the inward curve of the low back, and keep both feet flat on the ground.

Is Plank good for spinal stenosis? ›

Front and side plank

The most important thing in these spinal stenosis exercises is to keep the core firm and your back straight. Start on all fours, hips over knees and shoulders over wrists. Straighten one leg and then the other, tucking the toes under your feet, so your body forms a long line.

Does spinal stenosis ever get better? ›

Spinal stenosis can't be cured but responds to treatment.

"Unfortunately, nothing can stop the progression of spinal stenosis, since it is due to daily wear and tear," said Dr. Hennenhoefer. "The symptoms of spinal stenosis typically respond to conservative treatments, including physical therapy and injections."

What should you avoid with spinal stenosis? ›

What Is Spinal Stenosis?
  • Avoid Excessive Back Extension. ...
  • Avoid Long Walks or Running. ...
  • Avoid Certain Stretches and Poses. ...
  • Avoid Loading a Rounded Back. ...
  • Avoid Too Much Bed Rest. ...
  • Avoid Contact Sports.
9 Sept 2020

What does a neurosurgeon do for spinal stenosis? ›

The most common surgery in the lumbar spine is called decompressive laminectomy, in which the laminae (roof) of the vertebrae are removed to create more space for the nerves. A neurosurgeon may perform a laminectomy with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of a disk.

Is there hope for spinal stenosis? ›

Many people suffering from spinal stenosis do very well with surgery. The majority of patients have a great deal of pain relief. These are not the patients that we see at our center. We see the patients who have had surgery and now in some cases have been recommended to spinal fusion surgery.

How can you tell if your spinal stenosis is getting worse? ›

Weakness in the leg or foot (as the stenosis worsens). Pain that worsens when standing for long periods of time, walking or walking downhill. Pain that lessens when leaning, bending slightly forward, walking uphill or sitting. Loss of bladder or bowel control (in severe cases).

Is heat or ice better for spinal stenosis? ›

Heating over tight muscles in the lower back is often an effective way to achieve relief from spinal stenosis pain, as heating relaxes the muscles. Heating the affected area stimulates blood flow, which promotes and accelerates the healing process.

How fast does spinal stenosis progress? ›

Spinal stenosis is generally not progressive. The pain tends to come and go, but it usually does not progress with time. The natural history with spinal stenosis, in the majority of patients, is that of episodic periods of pain and dysfunction.

What is the next step if epidural injections don't work? ›

An alternative to ESIs, or an option to consider if injections are no longer providing relief, is the mild® Procedure. mild® stands for minimally invasive lumbar decompression. It's a short outpatient procedure that relieves pressure on the spine through an incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin (5.1 mm).

Can a chiropractor fix spinal stenosis? ›

Chiropractic adjustments are a natural, non-invasive way to help stenosis that's aggravated or caused by a spinal misalignment. Manual adjustments can correct vertebral misalignment and disc displacement so that the facet joints, ligaments, back muscles, and bones experience less stress.

Does CBD oil help spinal stenosis? ›

CBD aids mainly with the treatment of pain from inflammation. Pain from back conditions including arthritis, herniated discs, degenerative discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, and other back injuries and muscle strains may be alleviated through the use of CBD.

Does vitamin B12 help with spinal stenosis? ›

Vitamin B12 is important for the normal functioning of the neurological system, deficiency of which can result in varied neurological symptoms which may mimic those of spinal stenosis.

Does turmeric help spinal stenosis? ›

Try turmeric

“Turmeric has some promising evidence of pain relief,” Dr. Bolash says. We don't have solid proof that turmeric works for spinal stenosis pain. However, some studies show that it could help relieve arthritis pain.

What foods help spinal stenosis? ›

On the contrary, foods high in omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation, and in turn reduce pain caused by spinal stenosis. Omega-6: found in dairy products such as cheese, whole milk, and egg yolks. Also found in packaged foods with preservatives.

Can spinal stenosis affect your eyes? ›

A pinched or damaged nerve in your spine may lead to blurred vision or headaches, loss of hearing, slurred speech, and bowel and bladder problems, to name a few.

What kind of physical therapy is used for spinal stenosis? ›

Your program may include:
  • Gentle Movement. Your physical therapist may teach you specific movements to help take pressure off the nerve root, which can help alleviate pain.
  • Stretching and Range-of-Motion Exercises. ...
  • Strengthening Exercises. ...
  • Aerobic Exercise. ...
  • Manual Therapy. ...
  • Use of Equipment. ...
  • Postural Education.
7 Jan 2018

Is Acupuncture good for stenosis? ›

Overall, in the past 5 years, there appears to be more convincing evidence for the utility of acupuncture as a potentially effective adjunct treatment in the conservative management of spinal stenosis.

Can you do squats with spinal stenosis? ›

– Lower body exercises:

initially exercises like leg press, wall squats, leg extension and leg curl should be able to be performed as the lumbar spine is supported.

Can you do sit ups with spinal stenosis? ›

Most beneficial are flexion exercises such as situps, which bend the spine, Mr. Hagen said. "These are helpful because they open the space in the spinal canal and the lateral foramin." Swimming and water exercises are very good, too, Dr.

What is the newest treatment for spinal stenosis? ›

What are interspinous spacers? Interspinous spacers are a new approach to treating spinal stenosis that work gently and in a targeted way by opening the spinal canal to create room and reduce pressure on crowded nerves.

How do you sit with spinal stenosis? ›

When sitting, avoid leaning forward, make sure there is proper lumbar support for the inward curve of the low back, and keep both feet flat on the ground.

What is the best exercise machine for spinal stenosis? ›

Stationary Bike

The upright bike is beneficial for patients with spinal stenosis, because the bike allows the rider to lean forward, flexing the back and thereby relieving the stenosis while exercising. If you are experiencing lower back pain, the recumbent bike's reclining seat will offer you more support and balance.

Can you lift light weights with spinal stenosis? ›

Patients who have spinal stenosis increase the chance of injury performing certain types of weight-lifting moves. Exercises such as the snatch, dead-lift, squat and clean-and-jerk are extremely stressful on the spine as well as surrounding muscles. Less weight with more repetition is recommended for stenosis patients.

How do you strengthen your core for spinal stenosis? ›

Hip and Core Strengthening
  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Slowly roll your pelvis backward as if you were flattening out your spine. Hold this position for 3 seconds.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
12 Sept 2022

Is massage good for spinal stenosis? ›

Several types of massage are excellent for alleviating the symptoms of spinal stenosis. Deep tissue massage can help to release built-up tension in muscles, tendons and ligaments, greatly releasing the pressure on the spine.

Is Plank good for spinal stenosis? ›

Front and side plank

The most important thing in these spinal stenosis exercises is to keep the core firm and your back straight. Start on all fours, hips over knees and shoulders over wrists. Straighten one leg and then the other, tucking the toes under your feet, so your body forms a long line.

Can a chiropractor fix spinal stenosis? ›

Chiropractic adjustments are a natural, non-invasive way to help stenosis that's aggravated or caused by a spinal misalignment. Manual adjustments can correct vertebral misalignment and disc displacement so that the facet joints, ligaments, back muscles, and bones experience less stress.

What is the best treatment for spinal stenosis at l4 and l5? ›

One of the most effective treatments for treating lumbar spinal stenosis is a procedure called laminectomy. This treatment removes part of the vertebra that's putting pressure on your nerve.

What is the next step if epidural injections don't work? ›

An alternative to ESIs, or an option to consider if injections are no longer providing relief, is the mild® Procedure. mild® stands for minimally invasive lumbar decompression. It's a short outpatient procedure that relieves pressure on the spine through an incision smaller than the size of a baby aspirin (5.1 mm).

What does a neurosurgeon do for spinal stenosis? ›

The most common surgery in the lumbar spine is called decompressive laminectomy, in which the laminae (roof) of the vertebrae are removed to create more space for the nerves. A neurosurgeon may perform a laminectomy with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of a disk.

What foods should I avoid with spinal stenosis? ›

There are many foods that you will need to avoid.
  • Sugary Foods. Sugary foods are among the worst foods that you can eat. ...
  • Vegetable Oil. Most vegetables are high in omega 6 fatty acids. ...
  • Refined Grains. It is best to eat whole grains instead of refined grains. ...
  • Dairy Products. ...
  • Processed Corn. ...
  • Red Meat. ...
  • Foods With Chemicals.

What vitamins help with spinal stenosis? ›

Eating foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium is the best way to build strong spinal bones and prevent debilitating health problems, such as spinal fracture and osteoporosis.

Is standing or sitting better for spinal stenosis? ›

Bending forward or sitting will relieve the pain because these positions help to open up the spinal canal, but the symptoms recur if you stand straight again. Numbness and tingling can also affect you while weakness is less common.

Videos

1. Spinal stenosis: Mayo Clinic Radio
(Mayo Clinic)
2. FIX Your Neck Pain! Home Exercises For Cervical Stenosis
(Tone and Tighten)
3. Fixing Lumbar Spine Instability and Spinal Control | Tim Keeley | Physio REHAB
(Physio Fitness | Physio REHAB | Tim Keeley)
4. Living With Leg and Back Pain From Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
(Access Health)
5. PMIR Medical Center: Lower Back Pain
(Pain Management & Injury Relief Medical Center)
6. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, Cauda Equina Syndrome, Sciatica, & Disc Herniation: An Advanced Lecture.
(Douglas Gillard, DC, Professor of Clinical Science)

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