Physical therapy for spinal stenosis

Physical therapy can be a successful treatment to relieve chronic pain from spinal stenosis. It can also help put you back on track for doing the things you love — like taking a morning walk, traveling, swinging a golf club or gardening.

Overview and symptoms of spinal stenosis

Stenosis is a constriction of the already narrow space the nerves travel through in the spine. This narrowing often occurs because of the normal deterioration of the spine as we age. Spinal stenosis only causes painful symptoms when a nerve in the spine becomes pinched or compressed. These are some of the most commonly reported symptoms related to the condition:

  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness and weakness
  • Joint or muscle stiffness
  • Muscle spasms and cramping
  • Discomfort when leaning backward
  • Loss of balance

If you have received a diagnosis because of chronic pain, the first step in successful spinal stenosis treatment is usually to consult with your primary care physician to develop a course of nonsurgical methods. In addition to rest, pain medication and lifestyle changes, physical therapy is a proven treatment option for many patients. For a high chance of lasting pain relief, make sure your physical therapist is a licensed professional, and continue to partner with your doctor through the whole process.

How physical therapy relieves symptoms

A physical therapist uses exercise and other techniques to strengthen specific supporting muscles that can relieve pressure on the source of pain. For spinal stenosis, physical therapy will mainly focus on core muscles, as well as posture correction. These are some of the activities you may do in a physical therapy appointment:

  • Deep tissue massage
  • Strengthening and stretching exercises
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Water aerobics, yoga, walking and bicycling

Conservative treatments — especially physical therapy — are shown to be highly effective in bringing relief from spinal stenosis pain. However, for some patients, month after month of consistently pursuing these options does not bring enough relief to return to a normal activity level. If you are in this group, you may have begun looking at spine surgery.

There may be situations in which patients need more relief than what physical therapy can provide them. In these cases, Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive procedures that feature faster healing times^ compared to open spine surgery and are also safer and effective alternatives. For a no-cost review* of your MRI, and to learn if you are a candidate for our procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute today.

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