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Yoga for Spinal Stenosis
by Leigh Matthews

Yoga Mountian Pose

Spinal stenosis can cause severe back and severe neck pain, both acute and chronic, and many rely on analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications to manage this pain. Stenosis is the most common reason for spine surgery in older adults, and the diagnosis of spinal stenosis is estimated to increase by 59% between now and 2025 in those over 65 years of age. Alternative treatments can be extremely effective however, and may remove or reduce the need for these medications. In addition, many alternative health care practices can prevent, or reduce the likelihood, of chronic degenerative illnesses such as spinal stenosis; yoga in particular, which is recommended by the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society.

How Yoga Helps

Yoga Staff Pose

Yoga’s ability to correct postural alignment issues, increase flexibility, and strengthen core supporting muscles makes it an ideal practice for those suffering, or worrying about, spinal stenosis. As stenosis is usually a degenerative condition, worsening with age, and impacting upon flexibility, and range of motion, daily, or even just weekly, yoga can help relieve tension in the spine, alleviate pain, aid relaxation in general and slow down spinal degeneration. By stretching out the spinal column the pressure on nerve roots due to the stenosis may be both temporarily, and over time more permanently, relieved, with concomitant effects on the experience of pain, paraesthesia, and weakness. Several studies have shown yoga to be effective, amongst other alternative treatments such as qi gong, tai chi, and biofeedback, at reducing pain in chronic conditions. One study found a one week intensive yoga retreat more effective at increasing flexion and extension, and reducing pain-related disability in patients with chronic back pain than a comparable regime of physical exercises.

Easing into Yoga

Yoga Cat Pose

Some cautions apply with any therapeutic intervention for spinal stenosis. Carrying out backward bends in yoga may exacerbate a condition as these can compact the spinal canal, and cause the stenotic region to become narrower still. Forward bends are more likely to provide relief from the pain of spinal stenosis. Positions such as the cat, where the back is arched are particularly helpful for those with pinched nerves due to spinal stenosis. If there is lateral stenosis in the spine, then side bends are likely to aid in opening up that area and providing relief from the pain of the condition. Generally yoga poses are conducted in pairs, with a forward bend complimented by a backward bend, a good practitioner will be able to assist with this for those with specific conditions.

Yoga Positions and Poses

Yoga Happy Baby Pose

Postures which are particularly helpful to strengthen core muscles, promote good posture, and lengthen the spine are those such as Mountain, Staff, Downward Dog, Happy Baby, and Bound Angle. Warming up through gentle walking, or cycling, before attempting stretches is important, so as not to strain the muscles. Stretches should be held for 60-90 seconds to be optimally effective, but shorter holds to begin, with a number of repetitions, are excellent as the patient builds on their flexibility. Remembering to breathe and relax into the poses is important, as holding your breath whilst stretching causes the muscles to tense and may lead to injury.

Why Yoga Helps

Yoga Position -Downward Facing Dog

Whether you have a case of burning neck pain or a more serious condition such as spinal stenosis, yoga exercises help lengthen shortened muscles, aids relaxations, increases blood circulation and promotes the elimination of toxins from tissues, and increases the flexibility and strength of the spine. As yoga is a mind and body therapy it can also aid those suffering from chronic pain with the management of that pain. By improving general well-being and mood, patients are less likely to feel fatigued by their pain and can achieve a better quality of life.



Have a comment or question? Visit our Yoga Forum to start or join a conversation.


Re-printed with kind permission from www.spinalstenosis.org/blog



About the Author

Leigh Matthews is an English and Philosophy graduate from the UK, now living in North America and studying Nutritional Medicine.  She is a freelance writer with many years’ experience working in the natural health sector.  Leigh produces written content for both traditional print and new media with a particular focus on natural health, along with the arts and the environment.  A committed vegan, she enjoys encouraging others to adopt a healthier lifestyle both through her professional work and by maintaining a personal blog at www.thetastyvegan.com.  Email leighmatthews@gmail.com




About SpinalStenosis.org


Here you will find articles and stories about spinal stenosis, back and neck pain and other related information. We encourage you to ask questions or comment on any of our blog posts.

All of the information provided through our blog, as well as our spinal stenosis website, is developed through fact based research and written by medical professionals. In order to provide accurate, credible and valuable information, every blog post is thoroughly researched, edited and properly referenced prior to posting.

Please stop back frequently to read more up-to-date information about back and neck pain, spinal stenosis and other related conditions.




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