Young woman with congenital spinal stenosis wants to start exercising

Patient

Q: I have congenital spinal stenosis and a year ago i had three prolapsed discs. I am seeing an osteopath and its being managed, and I have been told its ok to start exercising. are there any specific exercises i should or shouldnt do?

Doctor

A:   You do not mention an important detail: what segment of your spine is affected?; Cervical, thoracic or lumbar?, and at which level you have the prolapsed discs. Physical therapy and specific exercises for spinal stenosis depend on the level of the stenosis. Narrowing of the spinal canal or intervertebral foramen does not always cause problems. But if the narrowed spaces compress the spinal cord or nerve roots, you are likely to experience the symptoms of spinal stenosis. As the space narrows more, it produces greater compression on the nerve, which increases the severity of the symptoms. For example is the stenosis is lumbar then you will have sciatic pain symptoms, if it is cervical then you will have pain in the neck, shoulders and upper spine; and all the different levels and symptoms require different exercises to stretch or strengthen the muscles in the affected segment. But in general, it is not recommended to do weightlifting or exercises that put additional stress in the different spinal segments. The most common exercises suggested for spinal stenosis include: walking, riding a bicycle, and swimming. If you begin to experience pain with these activities, stop immediately and of course, call your doctor.Use good posture at all times. You should try to do this even when sitting or lying down in bed. Good posture reduces the stress placed on the spinal cord by the vertebrae. This in turn will help to alleviate the pain of spinal stenosis, along with its other symptoms.Proper positioning of the neckis very important. A cervical pillow that provides a comfortable night's sleep, while positioning the neck in a neutral position should be used and also a right mattress that provide adequate support to the rest of the spine.Keep a healthy weight Extra weight will place excessive stress on our back and abdominal muscles and on the joints between the vertebrae. The results are an unstable and weakened spinal column, which in turn sets the stage for the onset of spinal stenosis. A healthy weight helps to keep the spinal column straight and strong. This will help to prevent compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots thus reducing the chances of spinal stenosis occurring.

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