How to treat spinal stenosis

How to treat spinal stenosis

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.

Spinal stenosis can be asymptomatic (without any symptoms), but the narrowing of the spinal canal in some areas of the spine are more likely to result in motor skill impairment, while other nerve groups are more responsible for pain signals.

  • Lower back and leg pain
  • Pain When Walking – Leg pain when walking can be caused by a variety of different conditions (problems with your circulatory system can also be responsible, for example), but the key difference is that a patient must typically sit down to alleviate pain caused by stenosis, where simply stopping (while remaining standing) will ease other types of pain.
  • Numbness and Tingling Sensation – A person suffering from spinal stenosis will experience their symptoms progressing over the course of several years, whereas other causes of numbness and tingling are much more acute in nature and easily addressed.
  • Frequent Falls and Other Mobility Limitations – Although certainly more rare, real motor skill impact is one spinal stenosis symptom. A person suffering from sufficient pain or weakness may be more prone to experiencing falls, and may have difficulty walking even for short periods of time.

While there are a variety of spinal stenosis causes, in the vast majority of cases the condition can be attributed to one of six broad causal groups:

  • Age – As you age, the connective tissue within your body will naturally thicken and stiffen, small bone spurs may develop, the cartilage discs of your spine deteriorate and the joints between your vertebrae begin to wear as well.
  • Arthritis – Both rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis can affect the spine, and the inflammation caused by these conditions can cause the spine to adjust and the gaps within to narrow, causing spinal stenosis.
  • Genetic factors – The natural size of a person’s spinal cavity is largely determined by hereditary factors. Genetics or other congenital structural defects in the spine are the main spinal stenosis causes for younger people. – This term refers to instability of the spine, and those who suffer from it may have their vertebra slip forward or backward in relation to other bones, impacting the space within the spinal canal.
  • Spinal tumors – Tumors , both malignant as well as benign, and other growths (such as a Chiari malformations) have the potential to impact the spinal cavity, either by enflaming the surrounding area or by growing into the spinal canal itself.
  • Trauma – The spine can be dislocated or fractured, or bone fragments can penetrate the canal or irritate surrounding tissue, causing the condition.

Whether your spinal stenosis is as a result of age, trauma or any other cause, our team of skilled board-certified neurosurgeons and physicians will work with you to identify the root cause of your condition and treat it quickly and efficiently.

One of the first steps in obtaining a spinal stenosis diagnosis is an imaging test of some sort: either an MRI scan or a CT scan supplemented with a myelogram. As the degree of compression can vary dramatically throughout the day, physical exams simply are not as capable as direct imaging tests at locating and pinpointing the afflicted area.

Another technique that is employed in spinal stenosis diagnosis to help the patient decide if surgery is a good option is an injection into the nerve of a small amount of local anesthetic. If this helps dramatically, the patient may want to seriously consider surgical relief of their spinal stenosis.

Non-surgical treatment options for spinal stenosis are usually prescribed first:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants and medications to relieve pain
  • Steroid injections
  • Physical therapy

If these methods are not effective, surgery may be needed to eliminate pressure on the nerves.

With skilled diagnosis and knowledgeable surgeons, NSPC can offer the best treatment for your specific condition. Some of the more common spinal stenosis surgeries to treat spinal stenosis are decompressive laminectomy and anterior cervical discectomy.

Decompressive laminectomy Also sometimes called decompression surgery, a laminectomy removes the tissue and bone (called the lamina) that is narrowing the spinal canal and putting pressure on the nerve roots. The purpose of the procedure is to relieve pressure on the nerves or on the spinal cord itself.

Anterior cervical discectomy During this procedure a board-certified neurosurgeon creates a small incision in the front of the neck to remove the cervical disc, inserts a small bone and attach a small plate. This cervical stenosis spinal surgery alleviates the pressure on the nerves and spinal cord, eliminating pain and numbness. Patients typically recover quickly, returning home the next day with little or no pain.

The experienced brain and spine neurosurgeons at NSPC have two innovative systems, the Aquamantys® System and the Misonix Ultrasonic device, that allow them to complete spine surgeries faster while minimizing blood loss and reducing complications.

Aquamantys® System uses radiofrequency (RF) energy and saline to shrink blood vessels, to quickly stop bleeding during procedures.

The Misonix Ultrasonic device preserves soft tissue such as the spinal membrane while allowing expert neurosurgeons to emulsify or melt bone during a laminectomy or discectomy procedure.

At NSPC New York, our spinal stenosis surgery specialists have a variety of treatment options available depending on the cause and location of your spinal stenosis. Visit one of our prestigious medical centers in Long Island to find out how our top neurosurgeons can help you get the relief and care you deserve.

Don’t let mobility issues and neck or back pain stop you — NSPC offers exceptional rehabilitation and pain management for your spine disorder. Our team of expert doctors focuses on sophisticated diagnostic techniques, individualized treatment plans, and quality care to help you get your life back, sooner.

How to treat spinal stenosis

World Class Expertise

For over 50 years & 350,000 patients NSPC has been a trusted global medical leader.
Contact us today for an appointment or consultation.

How to treat spinal stenosis

If you have chronic back pain, you might have spinal stenosis . This is when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar spine) or neck (cervical spine) become compressed. Lumbar stenosis can also cause leg pain and tingling, while cervical stenosis is associated with arm pain.

Back surgery is often required for advanced spinal stenosis, but you should always try nonsurgical treatment options first to avoid potential complications and a long recovery time. Here are eight ways to treat spinal stenosis without surgery.

Guided Stretching & Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy is a fundamental part of any spinal stenosis treatment program. Stretches and exercises won’t cure your condition, but physical therapy is vital to prevent physical debilitation caused by inactivity. The key is to start slowly so you build strength and tolerance in your spine over time. We may recommend beginning with supervised physical therapy at our office and gradually transition to an at-home regimen.

Activity Modification

It’s best to avoid activities that worsen your symptoms. For instance, if you have lumbar stenosis, you probably feel more comfortable when your spine is bent forward slightly. The activity modifications we might suggest in this situation include:

  • Using a walker instead of walking upright
  • Exercising on a stationary bike rather than walking or running
  • Sitting in a recliner as opposed to a straight-back chair

Inflammation Injections

While not a cure for spinal stenosis, inflammation injections at Back 2 Health improve your range of motion and provide temporary pain relief right at the source. The results often last for weeks, and you can return to our office for repeat treatments within the recommended timeframe.


Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help alleviate the pain associated with spinal stenosis. Stronger prescription medications ranging from muscle relaxers to anti-depressants to narcotic drugs can also be used, but you should learn about the side effects of any medicine before you decide to start taking it.

Chiropractic Care

We often recommend chiropractic adjustments for patients with spinal stenosis. This treatment option releases pressure on the nerves and realigns your vertebrae. By combining chiropractic care with other alternative treatments at our office, you might find that your symptoms improve dramatically in just a few visits.


Closely related to chiropractic care, muscle manipulation through massage helps to reduce the inflammation compressing your spine. These two treatments go hand in hand, and you can seek both at our office in Goose Creek.

Lumbar Traction Treatments

The purpose of lumbar traction is to gently stretch the compressed sections of your spine. This straightens the spine and helps your body heal itself faster. Lumbar traction may not be right for you if you have osteoporosis.

Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression is a form of traction therapy we offer here at Back 2 Health. This FDA-approved technology is a proven treatment for many types of back conditions, including spinal stenosis.

We offer targeted treatment sessions that provide either cervical or lumbar decompression, depending on your symptoms. According to a clinical study performed by Orthopedic Technological Review in 2004, 86 percent of all qualified patients experience pain relief from spinal decompression.

Treat Spinal Stenosis at Back 2 Health

If these conservative treatments sound better to you than surgery, visit Back 2 Health in Goose Creek. We’ll sit down with you and create a custom plan that combines the above methods in just the right way. If you tackle spinal stenosis early, conservative treatment methods may be all you need to fully heal!

If you’re in pain, don’t delay your visit to our office another day! Start down the road to recovery with these effective ways to treat spinal stenosis. When you’re ready to schedule your free back pain consultation, please call Back 2 Health at (843) 405-0025 or fill out the contact form on the right. Rest assured that we accept most forms of insurance to keep your treatment as affordable as possible.

Home » Spine Conditions » Canal Stenosis » What are my options for spinal canal stenosis treatment?

What are my options for spinal canal stenosis treatment?

Spinal canal stenosis is a degenerative spine condition that describes the narrowing of the spinal canal. The spinal canal is a pathway within the spine that surrounds the spinal cord, protecting it as it carries messages between the body and brain. While the narrowing of the spinal canal alone is not symptomatic, a nerve traveling in the canal can become trapped or compressed due to the constriction, resulting in debilitating symptoms.

Often, symptoms of spinal canal stenosis include pain at the site of the compressed nerve, as well as pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the local extremity. For example, if a nerve is pinched in the cervical (upper) spinal canal, the pain may radiate from the neck to the head, shoulder, arm or hand. If you’ve been diagnosed with spinal canal stenosis, you understand the pain and discomfort that can be caused by this condition.

These symptoms could begin to prevent you from performing your daily activities, such as household chores and golfing, if left untreated. You should talk to your doctor about the spinal canal stenosis treatment options available to you if you notice your symptoms interfering with your everyday life. He or she may be able to recommend a treatment regimen that can help ease your condition. To learn about the variety of treatment options available for spinal canal stenosis, read the following article.

Conservative treatment for spinal canal stenosis

Spinal canal stenosis is often caused by the natural aging process of the spine. Conservative treatments that focus on stretching the spine and strengthening the surrounding muscles are often effective in relieving the symptoms of this condition. The first step prior to beginning spinal canal stenosis treatment is to diagnose the location and cause of the stenosis.

In most cases, spinal canal stenosis is caused by another spine condition that has resulted in a vertebra or disc shifting out of alignment and into the spinal canal. For example, a bulging disc is a disc in the spine that expands into the spinal canal due to pressure from surrounding vertebrae. This could cause a portion of the spinal canal to be narrowed and could ultimately lead to nerve compression.

Once the cause of the spinal canal stenosis has been identified, your doctor can help you determine the best course of treatment to relieve your pain. Conservative therapies, such as physical therapy and stretching, can help to lengthen the spine and take pressure off the affected nerve. Exercises like Pilates and yoga can help to strengthen the core muscles around the spine to better support the weight of the upper body.

Surgical spinal canal stenosis treatment at USA Spine Care

For patients who do not respond to conservative treatments, surgical treatment may be suggested to create additional space in the central canal and decompress the trapped nerve root. At USA Spine Care, we offer several types of minimally invasive procedures to treat spinal canal stenosis. Our surgery is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery^ because our procedures use a small incision that is muscle sparing.

The type of minimally invasive procedure performed will depend on the cause and location of your spinal canal stenosis. We have minimally invasive decompression surgery for mild to moderate spine conditions and minimally invasive stabilization surgery for more severe spine conditions. Our board-certified surgeons+ and physicians will perform a thorough physical examination and review of diagnostic imagery before determining the best route of treatment for your specific needs.

Since 2005, our minimally invasive surgery has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain, establishing USA Spine Care as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Because of our commitment to patient-centered care, we have earned a patient satisfaction score of 98 and a patient recommendation score of 98 out of 100.^ To learn more about our spinal canal stenosis treatment, contact USA Spine Care today.

Through a free MRI review,* our dedicated team is able to determine whether you are a potential candidate for our spinal canal stenosis procedures.

Are you seeking spinal stenosis treatment in NJ? A definitive diagnosis of spinal stenosis can make a huge difference in receiving the proper treatment. According to The 5-Minute Clinical Consult 2011, 1 approximately 8% of people have this potentially debilitating condition. It’s important to understand spinal stenosis, possible treatment options and how to get the best treatment available.

What is spinal stenosis?

Spinal stenosis is the medical term for the narrowing of your spinal canal. Your spinal canal is the hollow inner portion of your spine where the spinal cord and nerves reside.


When this condition occurs, you may experience few if any symptoms or they may be incapacitating at times. The majority of individuals with symptomatic spinal stenosis experience one or more of the following symptoms. These can vary depending on what region of the spine the stenosis is occurring in.

  • Discomfort while standing for any period of time
  • Numbness in your hands, arms, legs or feet (this occurs below the area where the stenosis is present)
  • Pain in your shoulder, arm or hand
  • Bowel or bladder control issues
  • Compromised fine motor skills and coordination
  • Occasionally, symptoms will occur on both sides of your body


A number of issues can cause spinal stenosis. These can include spinal tumors, osteoarthritis, trauma or spinal injury, rheumatoid arthritis, scoliosis, Paget’s disease, spondylolisthesis, bone spurs or achondroplasia.

Diagnosing spinal stenosis

There are a number of means by which spinal stenosis can be diagnosed. In most cases it is discovered after one or more of the above-mentioned symptoms is experienced. In some instances, it is what is known as an incidental finding (this is most common in asymptomatic individuals). This means that diagnostics were being performed for another reason and the stenosis was found during that process.

The most commonly used diagnostic techniques to evaluate the spine include x-rays, to evaluate the overall structure of the spine and rule out major deformities, as well as more advanced imaging techniques such as CT scans and MRIs to hone in on the finer details of the spinal canal, spinal nerves, and spinal cord. These more advanced imaging techniques are required to confirm the diagnosis of spinal stenosis and its location.

Treatments for Spinal Stenosis

Once you’re ready to seek your spinal stenosis treatment in NJ, it’s important to have a spinal doctor you trust. A good doctor or surgeon will be able to guide you through the process of choosing the best treatment options and help you find facilities near your home in New Jersey or the Tristate area so you won’t have to travel too far.

The treatment options for spinal stenosis include non-surgical and surgical methods. Depending on the severity of your spinal stenosis and its location, you may be started on the most conservative treatment or be referred for surgery.

Non-surgical spinal stenosis treatments

Your doctor will likely recommend you start with a more conservative course of action for treating your spinal stenosis. Depending on your individual needs and the location of your stenosis, these may include everything from medications, physical therapy, to various injections.

Pain medications

Mild spinal stenosis symptoms often respond well to pain medications. Your doctor may recommend you try over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatories, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If these don’t seem to be taking care of the pain, you may be prescribed a stronger pain medication.


Corticosteroid injections in the area of your stenosis may reduce inflammation enough to allow you to be symptom-free. This involves a pain management specialist injecting a cortisone-based steroid at the point of the stenosis.

Exercise/physical therapy

Although it seems counter-intuitive, exercise can have positive effects on spinal stenosis. By stretching and strengthening ligaments and muscles in and around the affected area, you are essentially providing greater support to the affected area, creating more flexibility and allowing your body to move more freely.


Because spinal stenosis can cause stiffness and overall aches and pains, massage can be a useful tool to help alleviate some of the symptoms of this condition.

Surgical spinal stenosis treatments

If non-surgical treatments don’t work or aren’t effective enough at resolving your symptoms, surgery is the next option.

The procedures used to treat spinal stenosis are laminectomy, which may be performed by itself, or in conjunction with a spinal fusion.

To perform the laminectomy, a segment of the vertebra is removed, creating more room for the nerves that are being affected. In some cases, bone spurs (such as those that develop in conjunction with osteoarthritis) and ligaments may be removed to help further open up the area.

If a laminectomy requires the removal of a large portion of bone or it’s determined the spine is unstable, a spinal fusion may be performed. This involves inserting metal instrumentation such as rods, plates, wires or screws to join the adjacent bones and create more stability. In addition, bone grafting material is placed to create a “bridge” of bone, providing a more solid support for the area of the laminectomy.

How to Get Top-Quality Treatment

Finding the right doctor to perform your spinal stenosis treatment in NJ can be a complex process. However, if you take certain steps in your search, you’ll find the right doctor for your individual treatment. Consider the following qualities and attributes when you’re vetting various spinal stenosis doctors.

  • Ensure that your doctor is fully accredited. This includes holding a board certification in neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery, preferably with dedicated training in spinal surgery. With these credentials, you can rest assured that they have the best training and experience in their field.
  • Make sure that your doctor listens to you. If he or she doesn’t seem to be engaged and focused on you and your issues and concerns, keep looking. Your health and well-being need to be the two most important things your doctor is thinking about while talking with you.
  • A doctor with a good bedside manner is also essential. Find a doctor that is kind, caring and genuinely interested in helping you get the best treatment possible.

It’s also very helpful to find a doctor close to home. If you live in the New Jersey or tri-state area, look for a board-certified doctor that practices close to you. The less energy you have to focus on making travel arrangements, the more you can keep your eye on the important task at hand — finding a great doctor and getting relief from your spinal stenosis!

How to treat spinal stenosis

1 Domino, F. J. (2011). The 5-minute clinical consult 2011. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Pain is the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong and needs your attention. Those living with a spinal stenosis know this too well and constantly being in pain leads to the detriment of their overall health and well-being. People with this condition tend to wait and hope that it will go away on its own, but that rarely happens.

According to studies, over 47% of those above 60 years of age have reported symptoms of spinal stenosis such as neck pains, tingling of the arms and legs among others. While age is a contributing factor to getting the condition, there are other factors that may cause spinal stenosis.

You may have started doing the recommended exercises, which you hoped was enough, but the pain doesn’t seem to fade. Managing spinal stenosis calls for delicate balance between what you should and what you should stay away from.

Habits to Avoid if You Have Spinal Stenosis

Don’t Keep Waiting for it to Disappear

If you think spinal stenosis is just like any other back pain that goes away on its own, you are wrong. The condition is quite different compared to other causes of back pain such as lifting heavy loads and poor sitting posture. One of the condition’s characteristics is that it worsens with time if you don’t try any medically proven remedies. The fact is that it will never just go away without any intervention since it is termed to be a progressive condition.

That said, you aren’t limited to what you can do to minimize the condition’s development. Specific recommended exercise programs are great for improvement of mobility and reduction of both back and leg pain. These remedies are essential since they help improve muscle strength to walk better without enduring as much pain as before.

Don’t Focus on the Inflammation

Spinal stenosis symptoms tend to worsen the more you walk without treating it since the leading cause is a contraction of the spinal cord, which irritates the leg nerves. The irritation of the terms causes inflammation, and so this should be part of the treatment. Using medication dedicated to anti-inflammation is only a temporary solution and should follow other spinal stenosis treatments too.

Solely relying on anti-inflammatory medication can make your symptoms worse and limit mobility with time. It is vital to make changes to your spine’s biomechanics for improvements of your spine’s movements. Accomplishing this can be through both exercises and postural correction.

Limit Flexion Exercises

Prescription of flexion exercises has been a critical element for patients with spinal stenosis for decades. The exercises mainly bend the spine forward, increasing the diameter of the spinal canal, taking pressure off the nerves helping with less irritation.

It is important to limit yourself to this exercise and add the sustained standing lumbar extension exercise. This bending backward exercise’s main benefit is moving your spinal discs away from the spinal canal and nerves, giving them more space to function correctly.

Stop Focusing on Surgery

Believing that surgery solves everything is not the best way to look for solutions. It is not always the case for spinal stenosis since surgery can sometimes only make minimal improvements to the conditions. Non-intrusive methods such as physical exercises and other medications can go a long way to improving the state of your condition.

Remaining vigilant about what you do and staying off certain things will provide you with a smooth experience as you deal with spinal stenosis.

How to treat spinal stenosis

Request an Appointment

Provide your contact information and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to schedule your appointment.

Jonathan Cluett, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with subspecialty training in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery.

A lumbar spinal stenosis is a painful narrowing of the spaces in the spinal canal. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, you may be waiting and hoping it will go away. You may be doing exercises without knowing if you are doing enough or the right kind. Finally, you may be wondering if you should have surgery to fix the problem.

This article looks at what you should stop doing if you have lumbar spinal stenosis. It also explores some non-surgical ways to relieve pain and strengthen your spine.

How to treat spinal stenosis

Nicky Lloyd / Getty Images

Living With Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

If you have lumbar spinal stenosis, your healthcare provider has probably talked about things you can do to relieve your back and leg pain and make it easier to walk.

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to improve your range of motion (ROM) and strength. They can also show you how to change your posture to help ease your symptoms. You may already be trying some of these exercises.

Even so, learning what you should not do is often as important as learning what you should do.

1. Stop Waiting for It To Go Away

You may be waiting and hoping your symptoms will just go away. But lumbar spinal stenosis is different from many other causes of back pain. It is a progressive condition that often gets worse if you do nothing.

"Progressive" doesn't mean there is nothing you can do. Exercising can help you move more freely. It can also decrease back and leg pain. Working to improve your strength and range of motion can help you walk better with less pain.

Taking an active role in your care is one of the best ways to manage your condition.

2. Stop Treating Only the Inflammation

Spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of your spinal canal. This narrowing can irritate the nerves that travel down your legs. Symptoms are typically worse when you walk. They often get better when you sit down or bend forward.

With this condition, your spinal nerves can become inflamed and irritated. Taking anti-inflammatory medication can bring you some short-term relief.

Relying on anti-inflammatory medication can worsen symptoms. In the long run, anti-inflammatories may limit your ability to move. You will need other therapies to strengthen muscles and prevent more damage.

To treat your condition, you must change the biomechanics of your spine—the way your spine moves. You can do this by exercising and correcting your posture.

3. Stop Doing Only Flexion Exercises

In the past, many specialists prescribed only flexion exercises for people with spinal stenosis. Flexion exercises bend the spine forward. Why? Bending forward increases the diameter of your spinal canal. Creating more space in your spinal canal takes pressure off the nerves in your spine.

Today, it is more common to include exercises that allow you to bend backward, too. One such movement is called a sustained standing lumbar extension. This exercise gently presses against your spinal discs, moving them away from your spinal canal and nerves to give them more room.

Talk to your healthcare provider or physical therapist to find out if spinal extension exercises may help you. They can show you how to do these exercises safely.

4. Stop Wondering if Surgery Is the Only Option

Your healthcare provider may have talked to you about treatment options. You may have discussed a spinal surgery called a lumbar laminectomy.

But studies now indicate that physical therapy and surgery have similar long-term outcomes for lumbar spinal stenosis.

Surgery and physical therapy may have similar results, but surgery comes with much greater risks than an active physical therapy program.

A 2017 review published in the International Journal of Surgery confirmed surgery and non-surgical approaches, such as physical therapy, are equally effective. However, the study authors found those who had surgery had higher complication rates.

For some people, the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks. But an active physical therapy program may improve your spinal stenosis before surgery becomes necessary.

More invasive options such as surgery or epidural steroid injections, in which medication is injected into your spine, may be good options if therapy doesn’t work.


Lumbar spinal stenosis is a progressive condition. If you don't take any action, it is likely to get worse over time.

Instead of waiting and hoping your lower back will improve, you can talk to a physical therapist or another health care provider about different exercises you can do to build up your strength.

While anti-inflammatory medications may ease symptoms, in the long run you may be better off changing your posture and the way you move.

Surgery is a good option for some people with lumbar spinal stenosis. But physical therapy can often achieve good results with fewer risks.

A Word From Verywell

If you are living with lumbar spinal stenosis, the discomfort and difficulty walking can be hard to bear. It is normal to want relief right away. While physical therapy usually isn't a quick fix, it can bring lasting results if you're doing the right exercises for your condition.

A good physical therapy program may allow you to put surgery on the back burner. It may mean you can avoid a risky surgery altogether.

Cervical spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the spinal canal begins to narrow. The narrowing of the spinal canal oftentimes causes pain and a range of additional symptoms patients will need to find a way to handle until the condition is diagnosed and treated. When the spinal canal becomes narrower, this issue will likely compress the spinal cord as well as the nerves within this area.

The main cause of cervical spinal stenosis is changes made to the body by any kind of arthritis. Additional causes include the presence of tumors, herniated discs, and injuries such as a fracture. Along with pain, patients may experience numbness and stiffness in the back. While cervical spinal stenosis can’t be completely cured, there are a variety of treatment options that can help with managing and relieving the pain.

Regular Physical Exercise

How to treat spinal stenosis

One of the best and most effective non-surgical treatments for cervical spinal stenosis is to engage in regular physical exercise. Patients can put this treatment option into practice on their own or with the assistance of a physical therapist who can alter the exercises they perform based on the exact needs their body has. The exercises used to treat spinal stenosis typically center around strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which combine to reduce pain and allow patients to complete everyday tasks without issue.

When patients attempt to improve their balance, tools like exercise balls and wobble boards can assist with this while also strengthening their core muscles. Patients can also improve their back strength and flexibility with such exercises as partial curls, leg raises, and bridges. The main benefit of using a physical therapist in combination with these exercises is they will make sure patients don’t push past their limits, which could serve to aggravate cervical spinal stenosis.

Assistive Devices

How to treat spinal stenosis

When the pain caused by cervical spinal stenosis has become severe in nature, it may be difficult for patients to stand and walk, which is why they might want to consider using assistive devices to help. These devices can be everything from a walker or cane to braces. These assistive devices are commonly used by individuals with arthritis or similar conditions that can make it difficult to maintain standard movements. If the pain has reached the point where patients are unable to move well in their home, they’ll definitely want to consider making use of some of these devices.

The type of brace most commonly used with cervical spinal stenosis is a back brace, which provides a substantial amount of support to the back and spine while keeping the patient comfortable. The use of a back brace allows the core muscles surrounding the spine to relax. Walkers are specifically designed to provide individuals with more stability and balance while they walk.

Surgical Intervention Options

How to treat spinal stenosis

If cervical spinal stenosis has progressed to the point where it’s difficult for patients to walk or they’re having issues with their bowel and bladder movements, surgery may be necessary to at least lessen the severity of these symptoms. The surgical procedure patients are provided with mostly depends on the surgeon’s specific recommendation. The most common surgeries for spinal stenosis include laminoplasty and laminectomy procedures, both of which are designed to create more space for the bones in the spinal cord.

Because of the inherent risks of surgery, it’s important for patients to explore their non-surgical options before opting for surgery. A patient’s surgeon will be able to better inform them about the results they should expect as well as the recovery time that comes with the procedure for their specific case of cervical spinal stenosis. Some of the additional surgeries used for spinal stenosis include foraminotomy, cervical arthroplasty, and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.

Muscle Relaxant Medication

How to treat spinal stenosis

Muscle relaxant medications are designed to be used for certain aspects of cervical spinal stenosis that may not be relieved with other treatments. The use of these medications should help with any of the damaged nerves and muscle spasms patients have been experiencing because of cervical spinal stenosis. When individuals develop cervical spinal stenosis, the pressure caused as the spinal canal narrows can create a range of problems that affect their nerves and surrounding muscles.

When patients experience muscle spasms, the muscles around their spinal cord will become painful and tighten, which can make it difficult to move their back until the condition is treated. Muscle relaxants reduce muscle contractions for a brief period. However, it’s important for patients to take the correct dosage as provided by their doctor. They should, of course, look out for side effects such as dizziness, fatigue, depression, and reduced blood pressure when taking these medications.

Pain Medication

How to treat spinal stenosis

It’s highly recommended to take some form of pain medication when suffering from cervical spinal stenosis. Patients can obtain these medications over-the-counter in low dosages, which should relieve minor pain. Patients with severe pain may want to ask their doctor for a prescription for slightly stronger pain relievers. Some of the most common pain medications used to treat cervical spinal stenosis include acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen. These can be obtained in both over-the-counter and prescription forms. Since pain is the most common side effect of cervical spinal stenosis, it’s likely these medications would be able to provide patients with at least some relief. All medications can cause side effects, which patients should be aware of before taking them.