Topic Overview

The purpose of physical therapy is to decrease pain and allow you to
gradually return to your normal activities. Physical therapy for
spinal stenosis involves treatment with physical or
mechanical means, such as through exercise or heat. Physical therapy may reduce
pain in the soft tissues (such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons), improve
function, and build muscle strength. A physical therapist provides these
treatments and will also provide education, instruction, and support for

Physical therapy techniques may include:

  • Stretching, to reduce stress on
  • Education, to help you improve and maintain your
  • Exercise, to strengthen muscles.
  • Manual
    therapy, including massage, to improve or keep range of motion.
  • Heat therapy, to improve blood circulation to the muscles and
    other soft tissues.
  • Ice therapy, to help relieve pain.
  • Cycling and limited walking, to promote good physical
  • Aquatic exercises, to allow your body to exercise
    without pressure on the spine.

Exercises and techniques that may help relieve symptoms of spinal
stenosis and prevent progression of the condition include:

  • Lower limb strengthening, which may help prevent
  • Stretching.
  • Pelvic tilts and lower back
  • Frequent changes of position, to avoid sustained
    postures that compress the spine.
  • Planning ahead so that you take
    breaks in between potentially back-stressing activities such as walking and
    yard work.
  • Proper lifting, pushing, and pulling.

Your doctor or a physical therapist will design a
program specific to your normal level of activity, physical fitness, and
severity of pain.

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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kenneth J. Koval, MD – Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma

Current as ofMarch 21, 2017