Spinal Stenosis: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Spinal Stenosis Definition and Meaning
Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within the spinal canal narrow. It can develop in any part of the spine, including the neck (cervical), upper back (thoracic), or lower back (lumbar). As the space diminishes, there’s more pressure or irritation on the nerves, which can result in lower back pain and stiffness along with tingling or numbness down one or both legs. Though, for some, spinal stenosis doesn't cause any symptoms or issues.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
The symptoms of spinal stenosis can vary significantly from person to person, depending on the severity and location of the narrowing, but often include pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area. In the low back, it can cause low back pain, leg pain, and weakness. Symptoms may be intermittent or persistent, and they can worsen or improve with certain activities.
Spinal Stenosis: A Hinge Health Perspective
It can be discouraging to experience changes in your spine, but pain or limited mobility don’t have to keep you from your favorite activities. Though it’s common to feel relief from spinal stenosis pain during periods of seated rest, movement truly does help provide sustained improvement for your symptoms.
Almost any form of physical activity can be helpful, but to relieve spinal stenosis symptoms and improve your overall day-to-day functioning, you’ll want to focus on increasing mobility, strength, range of motion, and flexibility in your back, core, pelvis, hips, and shoulders. Tight muscles can irritate your spine, which is why it’s also important to incorporate stretching into your spinal stenosis exercise routine.
Spinal Stenosis Treatment
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and their impact on your daily life. Non-surgical treatments such as non-narcotic pain medication, physical therapy, and exercise are first-line treatment options. In more severe cases, injections can be considered, and when conservative measures fail to provide adequate relief, surgical intervention, such as decompression surgery or spinal fusion, may be considered.
How Physical Therapy Can Help With Spinal Stenosis
Physical therapy can aid in easing pain that’s a result of spinal stenosis, especially if you’re uncomfortable exercising on your own. A physical therapist (PT) can help you find ways to regain function by recommending specific exercises to help you move comfortably. PTs can create a personalized exercise plan to strengthen back muscles, improve balance, and increase flexibility — all of which can help improve spinal stenosis symptoms. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition.
Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
Spinal Stenosis. (n.d.). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/spinal-stenosis
Raja, A., Hoang, S., Viswanath, O., Herman, J. A., & Mesfin, F. B. (2021, December 19). Spinal stenosis. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441989/
Wu, L., & Cruz, R. (2020). Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK531493/