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The Best Exercises for Spinal Stenosis

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
The Best Exercises for Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis causes back pain due to narrowing of your spinal canal. Photo Credit Tom Le Goff/Photodisc/Getty Images

Spinal stenosis is a condition that typically results from age-related narrowing of the spinal canal. This narrowing places greater pressure on the nerves that run through the spinal canal. The result can be nerve inflammation, which results in pain, swelling and numbness in the body. While exercises do not widen the spinal canal, they do help to keep your muscles healthy and improve your range of motion, which can reduce your overall pain levels. However, you always should speak with your physician before you begin an exercise program.

Exercises to Avoid

While many exercises are beneficial to reducing your spinal stenosis symptoms, some exercises may place too much strain on your back. These include repetitive impact exercises, which include jogging and sports like tennis, basketball and football. When you run or jog, the impact is absorbed all the way up to your lower back, which can hurt the spinal canal. Instead, choose low-impact activities to strengthen the muscles.

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises get the heart pumping and burn calories, helping you to maintain a healthy weight. The best exercises for your spinal stenosis are those that involve smooth motion and are low impact. Examples of good exercises include swimming, exercising on an elliptical trainer and walking. The bent-forward position on a bicycle opens up the spinal canal, temporarily helping to reduce the pressure on your spinal nerves.

Leg Grab

This exercise helps to open up the spinal canal and can be performed when you first wake up in the morning and when you go to bed. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your legs toward your torso, placing your hands in the crook of your knees. Pull the knees toward your chest, feeling the stretch in your lower back. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds, then release the stretch. Repeat the exercise two times.

Hook-Lying March

This exercise strengthens the muscles in the back and spine. To perform, lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Straighten your arms on the floor with your palms facing down. Slowly lift your right leg off the ground, lifting three to four inches off the floor. As you lower your right leg, lift your left leg. March in this position for 30 seconds, working your back muscles as you continue to exercise. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise. Stop when you have performed four full sets.

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