Three Best Exercises for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a condition that affects the lower back, causing pain, weakness, and numbness in the legs. When the spinal canal narrows, pressure is put on the spinal nerves passing through. Most commonly, the cause of lumbar spinal stenosis is degeneration of the spine related to age. As the condition progresses, it can lead to bulging or herniated discs, thickened ligaments, or bone spurs. There are other possible factors that can contribute such as genetics, trauma, and previous back surgeries. 

The good news is that there are ways to manage the symptoms which include specific exercises. Seeking a consultation with a healthcare professional is always important before starting an exercise program, but there are some effective exercises that are safe for people with this condition that will control the symptoms rather than aggravate them.

The following are the top three exercises that are beneficial for those suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis:

Lower Trunk Rotation

The lower trunk rotation exercise is a gentle stretch that increases mobility in the lower back and hips. To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet together. Next, gently drop both of your knees to one side and keep your shoulders flat on the ground. Hold this stretching position for two or three seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Your goal should be to do ten to fifteen repetitions on each side while trying to gradually increase the range of motion only as you are able. Remember, if you feel pain, you should stop. 

Seated Ball Roll-Out

The seated ball roll-out is an exercise that targets the muscles of the lower back, hips, and core. To properly perform this exercise, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You should also have an exercise ball in front of you. Placing both hands on top of the ball, slowly roll it out in front of you. Make certain that you keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise. When you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back, stop and slowly roll the ball back toward you.

Again, ten to fifteen repetitions is the goal with a gradual increase in the distance you can roll the ball forward without feeling pain. 

Single/Double Knee to Chest Stretch

Another simple but highly effective exercise to help relieve the tension in the lower back is the single/double knee-to-chest stretch. For this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift one knee slowly toward your chest. As you do this, use your hands to gently pull it closer if needed. Hold this stretching position for ten to fifteen seconds and slowly lower your leg back down. 

Follow these same steps on the other side and then try to do both legs at the same time. Your goal should be three to five repetitions on each side.

How Physical Therapy Can Help 

Beyond these top three exercises, some other strategies can be beneficial in managing the symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis. Maintaining good posture, using a supportive device like a back brace, and generally avoiding strenuous activities that aggravate your symptoms are all ways to manage this condition. Maintaining a healthy weight and staying reasonably active is also important because too much weight puts additional strain on the spinal column. 

While a challenge to live with, lumbar spinal stenosis can be effectively treated with lifestyle changes and exercise. Implementing these top three exercises into your daily routine can help reduce your pain and improve your overall quality of life. For help with managing your symptoms, contact Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab at email us at 570-208-2787 or email us at