Spinal Stenosis Stretches

| August 28, 2013 | Reply

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal cord and nerves, which travel through the lower back into the legs, are compressed due to spinal canal narrowing; the disorder emerges either at the level of the neck (cervical spinal stenosis) or at the level of the lower back (lumbar spinal stenosis), while rare cases affect the middle section of the back (thoracic spinal stenosis).


The most common spinal stenosis causes can be classified as follows:

  • Aging (spinal degeneration, thickening of body’s ligaments, herniated intervertebral disks, disintegration of facet joints etc.)
  • Heredity reasons (people born with a small spinal canal)
  • Arthritis (osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis)


The symptoms of spinal stenosis typically are not very evident in the primary stages of the condition and become progressively more noticeable as the condition gets worse; in addition, they vary depending mainly on the type of disorder and the severity of the symptoms; that being said, the warning signs can include:

  • Discomfort when standing
  • Numbness that radiates in several body parts (arms, neck, shoulders, legs, knees)
  • Intermittent pain in arms or legs
  • Difficultly in walking
  • Tingling
  • A general sense of weakness

Spinal Stenosis Stretching Exercises

Most of the following stretches for spinal stenosis aim at improving the sufferer’s mobility, enhancing their stability and posture as well as alleviating the spinal stenosis symptoms and pain. Due to the nature of the disorder, a stretching routine of this type should be composed and closely watched by a physiotherapist or trainer.

  • A common static stretch, recommended for other health issues that is also functional for spinal stenosis: Lie on your back with your legs initially extended; then, bend your knees pulling them gently to your chest until you feel the stretch (photo 1). A dynamic version of the stretch (moving from the intial to the final position and back) can also help.
  • Another truly beneficial and effective static back stretch for spinal stenosis; stand upright with your hands resting on your hips; lean backwards gently and progressively, and once you go far with that, you should feel a stretch in your back; hold it there for some seconds (photo 2).
  • Assume a prone position on the floor with your palms and knees in touch with the ground and your arms fully extended; then, slowly move your upper body up and backwards (so that your chest and upper arms leave the floor, wheras your palms are dragged behind but stay in contact with the ground) so that your buttocks approach your heels (photo 6); when you will have reached the final position, your arms should be extended (and in line with your body) and your back totally stretched; return to the initial position slowly.
  • Another static one; lie pronely, with your stomach on the floor, your hands shoulder-width apart and the top of your feet flattened on the floor; then, push your core up, slowly extending your arms and aligning your spine; hold it there for some seconds and slowly return to the ground (photo 3). Again you can apply a dynamic version of the stretch.
  • Some yoga poses are also ideal for relieving spinal stenosis; for instance, the bridge pose (photo 4), lie on the floor with your back, your knees bent and your feet in contact with the ground; now, slowly raise your hips while moving your arms under your body; when you reach a point that you feel that your spine is stretched, try to keep it there by pressing your glutes and hamstrings; return slowly to the floor and relax.

A series of more dynamic exercises (photo 5), which usually require a ball, can be very effective in enabling your spine to be safely stretched, providing room for the vertebrae, the disks and the nerves which may cause the pain; still, you should leave those exercises for a later stage so as to avoid a potential worsening of your condition by a clumsy movement.

A number of sciatica stretches (the third one can be classified as such, for example) can also be implemented since they can effectively relieve lumbar stenosis. Actually, sciatica is a disease that can be caused by spinal stenosis.

Most of the above described stretches are categorized as active/static stretches but you can still apply dynamic/passive variations of them; when performing them, hold them for about 20-30 seconds and carry out 4-6 repetitions for each one. Whatever exercise you are up to, remember not to stretch yourself beyond your comfort level, since an abrupt movement or overstretch will almost inevitably worsen your situation.

In any case, the above list contains some of the most important spinal stenosis stretches, which however just give a clue about how to deal with the problem; in serious cases, a more individualized spinal stenosis exercise program will probably be of greater value.

Photos & Videos

The multimedia below will help you understand much better the previously mentioned stretching exercises:

Back Stretch for spinal stenosis

Photo 1- Back Stretch for spinal stenosis

Photo 2 - Standing Spinal Stenosis stretch

Photo 2 – Standing Spinal Stenosis stretch

spinal stenosis stretch

Photo 3 – Static Spinal Stenosis stretch

Bridge pose Stretch

Photo 4 – Bridge pose Stretch

dynamic Spinal Stenosis Stretch

Photo 5 – Dynamic Spinal Stenosis Stretch with ball

back flexion stretch

Photo 6 – Back flexion stretch

Other Spinal Stenosis Treatment Options

There are also other, very important precautionary measures/treatments that you can implement, which can be adopted either individually or as ancillary methods to thestretches. These are:

  • Painkillers
  • Medicines that reduce swelling
  • Supportive braces
  • Adequate and proper lumbar support
  • Other strengthening spinal stenosis exercises
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Acupuncture
Our Advice

Performing a spinal stenosis stretching routine on a frequent basis can definitely help you prevent the appearance of this serious malfunction and also relieve your discomfort, in case the disorder has already emerged. Nevertheless, you should never forget that, unfortunately, spinal stenosis cannot be healed completely, even with surgery, so always treat your body as gently as possible!



Category: Stretches and Diseases

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