Exercises for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Exercises for Lumbar Stenosis typically involve flexion or forward bending of the low back. Flexing the lumbar spine helps to open the spinal canal. This can take pressure off the nerve structures in the lumbar spine. 

3 Best Exercises for Lumbar Stenosis

1. Knee to Chest - Lying on the back, pull both knees to the chest and hold for 30 seconds, 3x. (If you can't get both knees up together, do 1 at a time)

Woman lying on her back while pulling both knees to her chest to do a knees to chest exercise for lumbar stenosisDouble Knee To Chest

2. Lower Trunk Rotation - Lying on the back with knees bent, rotate the legs and lower trunk side to side as tolerated.  Repeat 20x each side. 

woman lying on her back with both knees bent and rotating the legs and lower trunk to the right to do a lower trunk rotation for lumbar stenosisLower Trunk Rotation

3. Posterior Pelvic Tilt - Lying on the back, roll the pelvis so that the lower back flattens against the surface. Hold 10 seconds and repeat 10x.

Woman lying on a surface with knees bent and rotating her pelvis to flatten the lumbar spine against the surface. posterior pelvic tiltPosterior Pelvic Tilt

Click to learn other Exercises for Low Back Pain.

What is Lumbar Stenosis?

The spine is made up of vertebral bones that are stacked on top of each other. They are connected by discs that help to keep the space between the bones and allow movement. 

Anatomy diagram of the spine from a side view

The Spinal Cord runs from the brain and down through the central spinal canal. Between every vertebrae there is a space on each side called the lateral foramen. The spinal cord has nerves the branch off and exit between each of the side spaces between all the bones of the spine. Those nerve branches carry information to and from all of the tissues of the body to the brain.

When the discs and joints of the spine start to wear out, there can be extra bone growth or spurs that form. The extra growth can begin to squish the nerve structures in the central and lateral foramen. Degenerative disc changes can add to this compression. Click to learn more about Low Back Anatomy.

MRI image of lumbar spinal stenosis with labels pointing to the compressed areas of the central spinal canal

Why Does Bending Forward Help With Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?

Bending forward or flexing the lumbar spine opens the spinal joints and spaces. This takes pressure off of nerve tissue.  

Standing with erect and extended spinal posture is usually the best position for spine health. But with Spinal Stenosis, erect posture places the central and lateral foramen in a position that makes them more narrow. This can increase compression on nerve structures if there is already less space from spinal stenosis. 

Exercises for Lumbar Stenosis are aimed at flexing the spine to assist in opening the spinal canals. 

Click to Learn More about Spinal Stenosis.

Symptoms of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Symptoms of lumbar stenosis can vary but typical presentation is:

  1. Pain worsens with standing
  2. Pain worsens with prolonged standing or walking
  3. Pain travels down 1 or both legs
  4. Pain improves with sitting
  5. Pain improves with flexion exercise for lumbar stenosis
  6. Leaning forward with walking
  7. Changes with sensory or muscle strength in the legs

Will Lumbar Stenosis Exercises Fix Spinal Stenosis?

Exercises for spinal stenosis won't cure you. But they can help to manage the symptoms in some people. Flexion exercises place the spine in a position that allows the inflammation in the spinal tissue to calm down.

What If Stenosis Exercises Do Not Help?

If symptoms to not improve, it is time to see a spine doctor for further evaluation. Physical therapy can be helpful to address symptoms and improve spinal mobility and stability. 

Image-Guided Spinal injections are beneficial for many patients who do not improve with physical therapy. 

In some cases, surgery may be needed to decompress the nerve tissue in the spine. 

If there is loss of bowel or bladder control, loss of sensation in the saddle or groin area, or loss of control of the legs, this can be a sign of a medical emergency. See a Doctor right away.

Lumbar Stenosis Doctors in Jacksonville FL

If you have low back problems or symptoms of lumbar stenosis that are not improving with these basic exercises for lumbar stenosis, the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute can help!  

To schedule an appointment with a JOI Spine Doctor, call (904)JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below. To see a JOI Rehab Spine Physical Therapist at 1 of our 12 locations, call (904)858-7045.



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