Spinal Stenosis Exercises
For many individuals, simple exercises for spinal stenosis can help alleviate some of the pain associated with spinal stenosis conditions. Whether you suffer from cervical or lumbar spinal stenosis and depending upon the severity of your condition (make sure you check with your doctor prior to doing any exercises) simple flexion exercises (forward bending) may be right for you.
It is important to maintain a strong back to avoid pain and slow the degenerative process which eventually leads to some type of spinal stenosis treatment. There are two groups of exercises in which a strong back can be attained and maintained:
- Flexibility – lengthening of muscles over time through exercises such as pilates, yoga or stretching
- Strengthening – through repetition of muscle groups the back becomes stronger over time. Lifting weights, pilates, planks and other repetitious exercises are all examples of strengthening
By increasing muscle tone, especially in the abdominal core, the body will end up with a more stable spine. In addition, leg strengthening exercises make proper lifting easier which will help prevent back injuries and promote a healthy spine.
The following exercises can be completed three times per week once your doctor okays the program
Curl ups are a technique which involves the person lying down on their back with arms at side. Next, the patient bends his or her knees slightly and tilts their pelvis up until the back is flat on the floor. While in this position the person lifts their head and shoulders until the shoulder blades clear the floor – for a 5 second count. Repeat 10 times.
Oblique Trunk Raises
This spinal stenosis treatment exercise involves lying down on the floor with arms at side and the knees are slightly bent. Next, the patient reaches with one hand toward the opposing knee, slightly raising their shoulder off the floor – hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Prone Trunk Raises
While laying face down on the floor with arms at sides, tighten buttock muscles and raise head and shoulders up from the floor to a level that is comfortable – hold for 5 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
Alternating leg and arm lift
Once again in the prone position (laying face down arms at side) place a rolled up towel under forehead. Then place a pillow under your pelvis and abdomen. Next, keep your right knee straight and lift your leg about an inch off the floor, at the same time lift your left arm – hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times alternating legs and arms.
In addition to the previous mentioned exercises, Flexion exercises create room in the spinal canal allowing irritated nerves room to decompress, in turn, relieving the pain associated with spinal stenosis.
Spinal Stenosis Flexibility Exercises
By stretching a person can attain more flexibility, and the more flexible a person is, the more range of motion they will achieve. Normal spine movement and range of motion is dependent upon normal levels of flexibility around the pelvis and lumbar spine. If the range of motion is normal, this results in a decrease in injury risk by preventing abnormal forces on joints within the spinal column. An energetic and vigorous workout regime puts a lot of force on joints and muscles. It is therefore recommended to stretch your muscles prior to
working out. This prepares the body for a routine workout and helps decrease the risk of injury. It is recommended that each stretch exercise be completed slowly without rapid jerks or bounces.
Stretching the Hamstring
To begin, lie down on your back, raise one leg and pull it towards your chest by placing your hands behind your thigh, while your thigh is brought towards your chest, raise your leg as straight as possible – hold this stretch 15 – 20 seconds. Release and repeat on the other side for 3 repetitions total per side.
Double Knee to Chest
Begin by lying down on your back, place both hands behind your thighs and slowly draw them towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your lumbar spine (lower back) – hold this position for 5-7 seconds and repeat 5 times with small breaks in between.
What to do if you feel pain during Spinal Stenosis Exercises
If you notice an increase in pain in your legs while doing any of these exercises make sure not to ignore it. Immediately stop the exercise activity and contact your health care provider for advice.
The fact is that not everyone will feel relief from spinal stenosis exercises and stretches. For many degeneration of the spine has already set in or some other condition attributing to spinal stenosis (like a bone spur) gets in the way of relief. At this point one must make a choice to either deal with the back or neck pain or move to a more aggressive therapy than exercises.
In our next blog we will discuss spinal stenosis treatment options beyond stretching and exercises.