Foraminal Stenosis Exercises


Physical therapy for foraminal stenosis may offer relief for some patients but is extremely unlikely to facilitate a cure. Foraminal stenosis exercises can help to strengthen and stabilize the neck and back and, in doing so, remove a potential cause of the exacerbation of foraminal stenosis. For patients with a condition such as spondylolisthesis that is at the root of the stenosis, physical strength and conditioning training may help to reduce problematic movement of the spine and help with alignment issues. It is not a replacement for back surgery, and many patients will undergo physical therapy prior to and after surgery to correct structural problems. Conducting exercises for foraminal stenosis is inadvisable without the instruction of a qualified professional who understands the patient’s condition and the severity of nerve impingement.

Preventing Muscle Atrophy

In many cases the exercises for foraminal stenosis do not center on the back at all but treat, instead, the peripheral limbs to ensure maintenance of good muscle tone and mobility in an area with reduced nerve innervation. Preventing muscle atrophy and weakness can help rehabilitate a patient after surgery and reduce the risk of complication or long-term disability. As such, arm, shoulder, hand, and wrist exercises may be incorporated into a physical therapy regimen for cervical foraminal stenosis, whilst leg and foot movements can help with foraminal stenosis leading to sciatic nerve pain.

Stretching the neck muscles can help to relieve spasms associated with foraminal stenosis and can take the form of rotation, flexion, extension, and shoulder rolls. Performing these movements without a clear diagnosis and clearance by a physical therapist may make the symptoms worse; caution is, therefore, advised. If shooting pain occurs, or numbness suddenly appears during these exercises then patients should seek medical attention immediately. These exercises do not treat the condition but may provide some symptom relief.

Movements to Avoid

Twisting and side poses are liable to exacerbate pain from foraminal stenosis as they can put further pressure on the spinal nerves. Standing twists may be acceptable for some patients as they maintain the natural curve of the spine during the movement. Seated or floor twists are more likely to cause compression and pain however and are usually avoided or built up to. Cobra pose is contraindicated as it can cause lower back compression. The consistency of practice and the order of the poses can affect the benefits gained from yoga and pilates, as many poses complement each other and build on one another. Attending a class, therefore, is considerably more beneficial than devising an arbitrary routine at home.