Exercises for neurogenic claudication

Neurogenic claudication, or nerve-related symptoms that result in limping, can be caused by many factors. One of the most common symptoms is lumbar spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of the lower spinal canal. The symptoms include pain, numbness and cramping in the legs, severely affecting quality of life and mobility. Many patients are able to find relief when sitting or leaning forward at the waist, which curves the spine outward and reduces pressure on spinal nerves.

When we stand, our lower spines extend and curve inward, which naturally constricts the spinal canal. But if we sit, bend or lean forward, this flexes the lower spine, increasing space between the vertebrae and widening the spinal canal. As a result, exercises for neurogenic claudication based on spinal flexion are often one of the first treatment options a physician recommends to someone with these symptoms.

Williams flexion exercises

In 1937 an orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Paul Williams created a set of exercises based on his observation of patients with lumbar spinal stenosis. A few of these moves are detailed below and focus on the flexion of the spine, while stretching the lower back and hip flexor muscles. They promote strengthening of the abdominal and gluteal muscles for added lumbar support.

Before trying any new exercise, patients should always check with their physicians first, as some exercises can make symptoms worse if done incorrectly. It is usually recommended to perform each exercise gently and hold for five to 10 seconds each.

  • Knee(s) to chest — Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet on the floor. Gently pull your right knee to your chest, hold and then lower. For both knees, pull the right knee first, then the left knee to your chest, hold both of them there and then slowly lower one leg at a time.
  • Pelvic tilt — Lie on your back, with knees bent and feet on the floor. Pull your abdominal muscles into your back and gently roll your hips forward, flattening the small of your back on the floor. Hold and release. This exercise can also become a partial sit-up by slowly curling your head and shoulders off the floor.
  • Squat — Stand with feet shoulder width apart and parallel to each other. Aim to keep the upper body as perpendicular to the floor as possible, with eyes looking ahead. Slowly lower your body by bending at the knees.

Exercise your options

While flexion, strengthening muscles, pain medication and other conservative treatments may help relieve symptoms, severe cases of spinal stenosis and related spine conditions might require surgical treatment. Traditional open spine surgery makes many patients and doctors anxious because of the long rehabilitation required and risk of complications, such as failed back surgery syndrome.

The minimally invasive spine surgery offered by Laser Spine Institute reduces many of the risks and difficulties associated with traditional spine procedures by using a smaller, muscle-sparing incision. This leads to a shorter recovery time^ with less scarring for our patients.

If you are dealing with pain from neurogenic claudication, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient procedures.