Skip to Content

Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis

Skip to the navigation

Topic Overview

The purpose of physical therapy is to decrease pain and allow you to gradually return to your normal activities. Physical therapy forspinal stenosisinvolves 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 recovery.

Physical therapy techniques may include:

  • Stretching, to reduce stress on joints.
  • Education, to help you improve and maintain your posture.
  • 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 conditioning.
  • 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 falls.
  • Stretching.
  • Pelvic tilts and lower back stabilizing.
  • 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.

Health Tools

Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.

Decision Points focus on key medical care decisions that are important to many health problems.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKenneth J. Koval, MD - Orthopedic Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma

Current as ofNovember 29, 2017

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2018 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Symptom Checker

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.