If you’re looking for a way to ease the pain of spinal stenosis, physical therapy may be the answer. From exercises to stretches, our team of experts can help you find relief.
Assessing Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition that affects the spine, and it’s most common in older adults. The spinal canal is the space in your spine that contains the spinal cord. With stenosis, the canal narrows and puts pressure on the spinal cord. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in your back and legs.
To assess spinal stenosis, your physical therapist will take a health history and ask about your symptoms. They’ll also observe your gait pattern and how you move. This will give them an idea of your ability to walk and balance. They’ll also look at your posture and how well you can bend forward and backward.
Your therapist will also test your range of motion in different directions. They’ll check for muscle tightness around your hips and see if there’s any pain when they move your legs in different ways. They may also test your reflexes and see if you have any sensation problems in your lower legs.
After the assessment, your therapist will work with you to create a treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and improve mobility. In milder cases, this may be done with exercises and stretches that help loosens tight muscles and improve range of motion.
In more severe cases, physical therapy may be combined with other treatments such as medication or surgery. If you have spinal stenosis, talk to your doctor about whether physical therapy could help you improve symptoms and regain mobility.
The Goals of Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis
The key role of physical therapy in the management of spinal stenosis is to help the patient regain and maintain their overall function. The goals of physical therapy for spinal stenosis are to improve the patient’s pain, leg weakness, and joint stiffness.
In addition, physical therapy can help to improve the patient’s overall mobility and balance. Exercise is an important part of physical therapy for spinal stenosis. The type of exercises prescribed will vary depending on the severity of the condition.
Core strengthening exercises are often prescribed for patients with mild to moderate spinal stenosis. These exercises help to improve the patient’s overall core stability and trunk control. Core exercises also help to decrease the compressive forces on the lumbar spine by strengthening the abdominal muscles.
For patients with more severe spinal stenosis, leg-strengthening exercises are also important. These exercises help to improve the patient’s leg strength and reduce nerve compression.
Stretching exercises are also an important part of physical therapy for spinal stenosis. These exercises help to reduce muscle tightness and improve joint range of motion. Balance training is also important for patients with spinal stenosis. This type of training helps to improve the patient’s ability to maintain their balance and prevent falls.
Exercises for Spinal Stenosis
If you have spinal stenosis, exercises that improve your spinal mobility and flexibility are very important. They may help to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
Before starting any exercise program, it is important to warm up with some gentle stretching. You should also consult your doctor or physical therapist to make sure that the exercises are appropriate for you and that you are doing them correctly.
The following exercises are designed to improve the mobility of your spine and the muscles that support it. You should start slowly and gradually increase the number of repetitions as you become more comfortable with the movements.
Remember to maintain good form throughout the exercises. If you experience any pain, stop the exercise immediately and consult your doctor or physical therapist.
1. Lower trunk rotation: This exercise is designed to move your lower back and pelvis in a rotating motion. It also helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your spine.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just above your hip bones.
- Slowly rotate your hips and knees to one side, then back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do 10 rotations on each side.
2. Pelvic tilt: This exercise helps to stretch and strengthen the lower back muscles, as well as the transversus abdominis (a deep core muscle that helps support the spine).
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a small rolled towel under your lower back for added support, if needed.
- Tilt your pelvis so that your low back flattens against the towel roll/floor. Contract your abdominal muscles to help achieve this tilt. You should feel a gentle arching in your low back as you tilt your pelvis. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax completely into a neutral spine position (flat against the towel roll/floor). Repeat 10 times
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows, placing pressure on the nerves that travel through it. This pressure can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs and back. Physical therapy exercises for spinal stenosis can help to relieve pain and improve mobility.
One exercise that may be recommended is the knee-to-chest exercise. This exercise helps to stretch the lower back muscles and alleviate pressure on the spinal canal.
To do this exercise:
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Slowly lower one knee toward your chest, using your hands to assist if necessary.
- Hold for a count of five, then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Do 10 repetitions of this exercise or as many as you can comfortably do.
Another physical therapy exercise for spinal stenosis is known as the lumbar spine extension exercise. This exercise helps to stretch and strengthen the muscles in the lower back. It may also help to reduce pressure on the spinal nerves by widening the bowel of the spinal canal.
To do this exercise:
- Start by lying on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms at your sides.
- Slowly lift your head, shoulders, and upper back off of the ground, using your hands to support your weight if necessary.
- Hold for a count of five, then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times or as many as you can comfortably do.
Pelvic Tilt Exercise
One way to help ease the pain of spinal stenosis is to do pelvic tilt exercises.
To do this exercise:
- Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and tilt your pelvis so that your hip bones move slightly toward your ribs. You should not arch your back too much—just enough to move the hip bones.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax.
- Repeat 10 times.
Be sure to contact only your abdominals—not the muscles in your thighs, hips, or buttocks. The most important muscle group to focus on is the transversus abdominis, which stabilizes your spine and pelvis. Do not hold your breath during this exercise—breathe normally the entire time.
Glute Bridge Exercise
One exercise that is very important for people with spinal stenosis is the Glute Bridge. The Glute Bridge strengthens the gluteus maximus, which is the largest muscle group in the hip area. The gluteus maximus aids in lower back and leg strength and is very important for people with spinal stenosis.
To do the Glute Bridge, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips off the ground until your thighs and torso are in line with each other, then hold for two seconds. Lower your hips back to the ground and repeat. Do three sets of 10 repetitions. As you get stronger, you can increase the number of repetitions.
The Glute Bridge is a great exercise for people with spinal stenosis because it strengthens the large muscles around the lumbar spine, which can help to take some of the pressure off of the spine. It is also good for people with leg weakness because it helps to build up leg strength.
Lower Trunk Rotation Exercise
Start by lying on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your left hand on your right knee and pull it toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and repeat with the other leg. For a greater challenge, keep your shoulders on the floor and rotate your trunk so that your left elbow points toward the ceiling, then rotate to the other side. Repeat 10 times on each side.
This exercise is designed to improve mobility in your lumbar spine or low back. It’s important to maintain good mobility in this area to avoid pain and injury. This exercise can also be used as a warm-up before other activities.
Spinal Stenosis Prevention
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. This can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs and back.
While there is no cure for spinal stenosis, physical therapy can help relieve symptoms and prevent future problems. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your strength and flexibility, and how to use proper posture and body mechanics. They may also use electrical stimulation, massage, or ultrasound to relieve pain.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spine. However, physical therapy is often recommended as the first line of treatment. After surgery, physical therapy can help you recover your range of motion and strength.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best exercises for stenosis are those that help to improve the range of motion and flexibility in the affected area. Stretching and gentle range-of-motion exercises are typically recommended.
Exercises to avoid with spinal stenosis include any that put pressure on the spine or compress the spine, such as sit-ups, bent-over rows, and leg lifts.
There is no one best doctor to treat spinal stenosis. The best doctor for a particular patient may depend on the severity of the condition, the patient's overall health, and the treatment preferences.
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In conclusion, physical therapy is an essential part of the treatment plan for patients with spinal stenosis. The exercises and activities that are prescribed by the physical therapist can help to improve the quality of life for these patients by increasing their mobility and strength.
Patients should continue to participate in physical therapy even after they leave the hospital or outpatient facility, and they should also be sure to follow their doctor’s recommendations for additional exercises to do at home.
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Alan Walker is an author, researcher, and contributing writer at Spine Institute NY. He is a typical introvert, coffee fanatic, and freelancer.”