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physical therapy spinal stenosis

Can Physical Therapy Reduce the Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis?

Spinal Stenosis and its associated symptoms can limit physical activity and alter a patient’s day-to-day life. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is early diagnosis and treatment. Although there is no cure for Spinal Stenosis, physical therapy is a great way to slow down the progression of the condition and minimize or even eliminate symptoms. 

Passive Physical Therapy for Spinal Stenosis

Physical therapy that’s administered by a Physical Therapist is called Passive Physical Therapy. Because the patient does no work during the sessions, passive therapy is a great way to treat the initial symptoms of spinal stenosis in combination with more active approaches.  Some of the most common types of passive therapy are:

  1. Deep tissue massage. Relieving muscle tension can help to better participate in active therapy treatments.
  1. Nerve stimulation. Mild electrical impulses release endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers and can help to maintain muscle tension to provide support for the spine.
  1. Improved circulation, via heat supplied by sound waves, decreases pain, swelling, and inflammation.

Illustration 1– Passive therapy can reduce inflammation and other symptoms of spinal stenosis, but only in combination with active physical therapy and exercise.


A Physical Therapist can prescribe any, or any combination, of these treatments based on the severity of symptoms.

Active Physical Therapy

Active physical therapy refers to stretching and strengthening exercises performed by the patient, under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. Because no two patients are the same, an active physical therapy plan is always customized. Some of the benefits of active therapy include:

  • -Improved spine flexibility and strength
  • -Increased core strength
  • -Improved posture

All of these can lead to lasting symptom relief.


Combining Physical Therapy with Other Treatment Options

Orthopedic and musculoskeletal specialists are the best suited to prescribe physical therapy to treat spinal stenosis. In some cases, they may combine physical therapy with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and/or spine injections. When spinal stenosis isn’t diagnosed and treated early, the condition might reach the point where surgery is the only treatment option.

Contacting a Spine Specialist

If you have back and/or extremity pain that won’t go away, it’s important that you contact a spine specialist. Their knowledge and experience allow them to properly diagnose and treat back pain caused by a variety of conditions, including spinal stenosis. Give us a call at one of our 5 Fairfield County locations and will get you an appointment ASAP.  Earlier recognition of symptoms and beginning of treatment is associated with better long term outcomes.