Moger: The challenges of spinal stenosis

The benefit of both exercise and weight loss (if necessary) is crucial in helping with the pain associated with spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis is defined as a narrowing of the open spaces within your spine which can put pressure on your spinal cord and nerves that travel to your arms and legs.

Although spinal stenosis can occur in any region of the spine, the most common forms are cervical spinal stenosis at neck level and lumbar spinal stenosis in the lower back area and is most commonly caused by wear and tear changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.

Cervical spinal stenosis is often far more dangerous by compressing the spinal cord it can lead to myelopathy, which is a serious condition causing symptoms that include major body weakness and paralysis.

Some other symptoms may include pain, muscle weakness, numbness, and loss of bladder or bowel function.

Sciatic pain from nerve root irritation or impingement can also be caused by spinal stenosis, a typical symptom with sciatica is pain that radiates along the sciatic nerve down the leg while walking, and with sciatic pain relief only felt when sitting down.

The benefit of both exercise and weight loss (if necessary) is crucial in helping with the pain associated with spinal stenosis.

Losing any extra weight is important in reducing load bearing stress on the lumbar spine which can really help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the stenosis.

Often, those with spinal stenosis become less active in an effort to reduce pain, however inactivity will only lead to muscle weakness which will result in more pain.

A qualified personal trainer can teach you exercises that will help improve your balance build strength and endurance and improve your quality of life.

Specific strengthening exercises should aim at strengthening the core and spinal extensors to support the spine.

Flexing the lower spine (bending forward) opens up the spine and allows the impingement to resolve which explains why people with spinal stenosis usually feel better when bending forward than standing up straight.

The most comfortable forms of cardiovascular exercise for those suffering with spinal stenosis may include water exercises, stationary biking or walking on a slight incline on a treadmill as your lower back is more opened up in leaning forward position.

Stretching exercises are also important and should include stretching the muscles of the back that hold the spine in extension (backward bending.)