Exercise is one of the best treatment options for those who have spinal stenosis. The pain caused by spinal stenosis can truly affect our day-to-day lives which is why reducing this pain is important. Exercises that are great for spinal stenosis can help reduce pain and tension, as well as strengthen the core.
Before we delve into the different spinal stenosis exercises, we must first learn more about spinal stenosis itself. In this article, we will discuss what spinal stenosis is, what’s causing it, how it can affect our daily activities, and what are the other treatment options available.
Spinal Stenosis is a condition in which the spaces within the spine narrows. When your spinal canal narrows, there will be pressure on the spinal nerves. A pinch in the spinal cord or on the nerves surrounding it can cause pain. Most often, spinal stenosis happens in the neck and the lower back.
People with spinal stenosis may experience pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness in the affected area of the body. There are people with spinal stenosis who don’t experience any symptoms at all, but to those who do, symptoms can get worse over time.
Spinal Stenosis often occurs to people who are 50 years old and above due to degeneration in the spine. However, there still a number of reasons and causes that may cause spinal stenosis in younger people.
Types of Spinal Stenosis
Spinal Stenosis has 2 main types and they’re classified depending on which area of the spine it occurs. There are people who have both types of spinal stenosis. Here are the two types of spinal stenosis:
1.Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar Stenosis is when the narrowing of the spinal canal happens in the lower back. This type of spinal stenosis is the most common one.
2. Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Cervical Stenosis is when the narrowing of the spinal canal happens in the neck.
Causes of Spinal Stenosis
Our spine starts from the neck down to our lower back. The spinal canal is what protects our spinal cord or spinal nerves. There are those who genetically have a small spinal canal. However, in most cases, spinal stenosis happens when the space in our spines narrow.
Here are the most common causes of spinal stenosis:
- Herniated Disc. Spinal discs serve as cushions for our spine. They are shock absorbers that are located between our vertebrae. Spinal discs wear and dry out as time goes causing cracks in the exterior part of the disc. When a spinal disc cracks, it causes the soft inner material inside the disc to escape outside which can press or pinch the nerves on the spine.
- Spinal Injuries. Trauma is a common cause of spinal stenosis. Accidents can cause fractures and dislocations on the vertebrae. Fragments of bones that get displaced may damage the spinal canal. When the tissue near the spinal canal swells after surgery may also add pressure on the spinal nerves causing spinal stenosis.
- Tumors. Cancerous growths and abnormal growths can form inside the membrane which covers the spinal cord, as well as in the spaces in between the vertebrae and the spinal cord.
- Overgrowth of Bone. Osteoarthritis can cause damage to the bones in your spine. This damage then causes osteophytes (bone spurs) to form and grow in the spinal canal.
- Thickened Ligaments. Over time, ligaments in the spine which holds the spinal bones together can thicken and stiffen causing it to bump the spinal canal.
- Paget’s Disease. Paget’s Disease is a condition where the bones of the spine grow large and become fragile. When this happens, the spinal canal narrows and causes nerve damage resulting in spinal stenosis.
How Spinal Stenosis Affect Day-to-Day Life
Spinal Stenosis is a condition which can truly affect our day-to-day life. The pain it causes can be so severe that numerous activities we do on a daily basis may be put to a halt.
Here are some of the most common complications of spinal stenosis:
- Hard time standing and walking. When we stand and walk, our spine becomes upright and causes compression in the vertebrae resulting in pain.
- Loss of bowel and bladder control. There are cases when spinal stenosis causes extreme nerve damage that affect our bowel and bladder control.
- Numbness and Weakness. When the nerves in our spinal cord get damaged, the pain may cause leg weakness and result in your foot slapping on the ground, also known as “foot drop”.
- Neck and Lower Back Pain. Depending on the location, compressed nerves in the spine causes pain on either the lower back or on the neck.
- Cramps. Spinal stenosis can also cause cramps on the legs especially when you stand or walk for a long time.
Spinal Stenosis Exercises
Before you start doing spinal stenosis exercises, it’s important to consult with your doctor first. Exercising without a recommendation from your doctor can cause even more pain than before and worsen your condition.
When doing these exercises, remember that you should not overexert yourself. The goal of spinal stenosis exercises is to gently build your strength and nurture your flexibility, all in a gradual manner. These exercises are great for reducing pain and tension, as well as strengthen your core.
There are two kinds of spinal stenosis exercises that are great for reducing pain caused by spinal stenosis and strengthen the spine and the core.
Low-impact exercises are exercises that strengthen the spinal muscles and increase one’s flexibility. It also helps relieve spinal stenosis. Here some of the most effective low-impact exercises you can do:
- Short yet frequent walks
Spinal stenosis causes back pain, and back pain can often be irritating. One of the best ways to relieve pain is to strengthen core with yoga. With yoga, your posture is improved and helps you get out of a sedentary lifestyle. Yoga stretches and strengthens your core to help fix injured muscles, improves balance, and reduces pain.
5 Exercises To Relieve Spinal Stenosis Pain
- Start by lying down on your back
- Bend your knees while keeping your feet on the floor
- Cross your arms over your chest with your hands placed just below your shoulders
- Exhale as your back lies flat on the floor then raise your head and your shoulders off of the floor
- Hold this position for at least 3 seconds
- Lower your head and shoulders to the floor as you inhale
2. Front Plank
- Start by going on the floor on all floors
- Keep your hips over your knees and shoulders over your wrists
- Tuck the toes on one leg under the feet
- Then straighten the other leg
- Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and remember to breathe
- Switch legs afterwards
- Do front planks for as long as 2-3 minutes
3. Side Plank
- Start with a planking position as mentioned on Exercise #2
- Turn to your sides by shifting your weight to your right hand and to the outer side of your right foot
- Put your left foot on top of your right foot or you can also place it on the ground
- You can also place your left foot on the ground in front of your right knee with your left knees bent
- Lift your left arm towards the ceiling
- You can look at the ceiling as well or you can just look on the floor
- Hold this position for at least 5 seconds
- Repeat motion on the left side
4. Triangle Pose
- Start by standing on the top part of the yoga mat
- Make sure your feet are firmly on the ground
- Place one foot back at the bottom part of the yoga mat with the heel up
- Align your front heel with your back foot
- Inhale as you slowly lift both arms keeping them parallel to the floor
- Make sure your legs are straight
- As you exhale, reach forward and lower the left arm to the floor
- Hold this position for at least 5-10 seconds
- Repeat on another side
5. Cat/Cow Pose
- Start by going down on the floor on all fours
- Keep your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees
- Let your belly touch the ground as you push your chest forward while inhaling with your face looking at the ceiling
- Push the floor underneath you and arch your back making your tailbone curve as your exhale
- Repeat for at least 5-6 times