3 Exercises for Spinal Stenosis

PhysiowinnipegHealth and Wellness0 Comments

woman's upper back spinal stenosis

‘Spinal stenosis’ refers to a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. The condition can be painful and limiting. Spinal stenosis is part of the aging process, but it can and should be managed. In some cases, spinal stenosis is congenital (1).

Do You Have Spinal Stenosis? Know the Symptoms.

Spinal stenosis has specific symptoms. According to physiotherapist Michael Curtis, these symptoms include pain, tension, and weakness in the legs and back. “Oftentimes, these symptoms are felt during standing and walking and relieved with sitting,” wrote Curtis (2).

Do you feel pain, tension, and weakness in your back and legs when you stand up? Is it relieved when you sit down? If so, consider being evaluated for spinal stenosis by a physiotherapist or other healthcare provider.

3 Exercises for Spinal Stenosis

Each case of spinal stenosis is different and should be treated individually. But in general, exercise tends to be helpful for relieving the symptoms of spinal stenosis. These exercises specifically can be fitting for people with this condition:

1. Swimming — Swimming is one of the best exercises for people with spinal stenosis. This is because it fully supports a person’s body weight and gently exercises all of his or her back muscles. The supportive environment the water provides is ideal for those who must avoid having too much pressure on the back region (3).  

2. Cycling — Does your gym have a section of stationary recumbent bikes? If so, be sure to hop on one next time you are there. Physiotherapist Michael Curtis wrote, “As for aerobic exercise, cycling has been proven to be very effective (for spinal stenosis) (2).”

3. Knees-to-chest stretch — Stretching can be helpful. To gently stretch your back, draw both of your knees to your chest while laying on your back, hugging your knees to your chest. Hold for ten seconds, then lower your legs.  

Please do not begin an exercise regime, especially if you are in pain, without first consulting a healthcare practitioner.

How a Physiotherapist Treats Spinal Stenosis

A physiotherapist can provide effective treatment for the management of spinal stenosis. Physiotherapists use exercise, heat therapy, and other healing modalities to reduce pain caused by this condition. In individuals having spinal stenosis, “(physiotherapy) may reduce pain in the soft tissues (such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons), improve function, and build muscle strength,” stated WebMD (5).

Interested in making physiotherapy part of your life? Get in touch with a physiotherapist in the Winnipeg area by contacting Elite Sports Injury Physiotherapy Clinics.

Read more about back pain and physiotherapy in Physiotherapy: Your Firstline Treatment Against Low Back Pain.  




1. MedScape. Spinal stenosis. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1913265-overview.  

2. Curtis, Michael. Top 5 exercises for spinal stenosis. https://www.michaelcurtispt.com/spinal-stenosis/.

3. Spine Universe. Exercises for spinal stenosis. https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/spinal-stenosis/exercises-spinal-stenosis.

4. Braceability. 9 exercises for lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis. https://www.braceability.com/blog/spinal-stenosis-exercises/.

5. WebMD. Physical therapy for spinal stenosis. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/physical-therapy-for-spinal-stenosis-topic-overview.  

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