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Pilates Reduces Spinal Stenosis Symptoms

By HERWriter
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Pilates Can Reduce Spinal Stenosis Symptoms Lev Dolgachov/PhotoSpin

Back pain can often be caused by a more chronic condition called spinal stenosis. Here's how Spine-Health.com describes this condition:

“Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal cord in the neck (cervical spine) or the spinal nerve roots in the lower back (lumbar spine) are compressed. Symptoms of lumbar stenosis often include leg pain (sciatica) and leg tingling, weakness, or numbness. Arm pain is a typical symptom of cervical spinal stenosis.”

For many who suffer from this spinal stenosis, there is a tendency to stay sedentary. However, movement is typically recommended.

SpineUniverse.com suggests walking as a way to exercise because it is a low impact workout. They recommend swimming as well.

“Swimming is also an ideal exercise because it exercises all your back muscles in a safe, supportive environment. The water supports your weight well, which means that there's less weight on your back.”

SpineHealth.com recommends cycling as it is low impact. “Patients may have less pain by avoiding the higher impact exercise such as jogging, avoiding contact sports, and avoiding long periods of standing or walking.”

LiveStrong.com says that spinal stenosis was once called “creeping paralysis, because people believed that the condition was untreatable.”

However, Pilates and other core strengthening exercises can help reduce the symptoms. Working as a Pilates instructor in a post-rehab setting, I frequently had the opportunity to bridge patients discharged from physical therapy into a fitness routine.

I often recommend basic set-up Pilates exercises to start. These fundamental basics allow for the mind/body connection through the breath to start to identify the core muscles for strengthening.

Once you have built this connection and have gotten stronger, you can then progress into a more difficult routine.


You first need to establish a mind/body connection through breathing.

Start by lying on your back, knees bent, hands wrapped around your rib cage, just underneath your chest. Breathe in through the nose, expanding the rib cage left to right and front to back.

Exhale through the mouth, feeling the ribs move closer together and pulling the navel back to the spine.

Neutral Alignment

Lie flat on your back, legs extended. Place the bottom of your palm on your hip bones, making a triangle with your pointer fingers.

Where your pointer fingers meet, think of that as a lower belly button. Breathe in deeply through the nose expanding your rib cage and belly.

Exhale through the mouth pulling your belly button and “lower belly button” back to the spine.

Repeat 6-10 times

Scapular Retraction

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Make sure your shoulders are not hunched close to your ears. Your head should be a natural extension of your spine.

Extend both arms up to the ceiling. Breathe in, reaching both arms towards the ceiling, allowing shoulder blades to come off the floor. Breathe out as you push the shoulder blades back towards the floor.

Repeat 6-10 times


Lie on your back and anchor your palms and shoulder blades into the mat. Bend your knees aligning them with your hips, feet flat on the floor.

While maintaining neutral spine, inhale and engage your glutes as you lift up through the heels. Use your glutes and abs together, as you lengthen your tailbone toward the back of your knees.

Exhale as you roll back down to the ground, articulating the spine to the mat as your upper back, middle back, lower back, and finally tailbone come back to the mat.

Repeat 6-10 times


“Exercises for Spinal Stenosis – SpineUniverse.com” Spine Universe. Web. 3 March 2015

“Spinal Stenosis - Spine-Health.com.” Spine Health. Web. 3 March 2015

“Pilates & Spinal Stenosis – LiveStrong.com.” Live Strong. Web. 3 March 2015

Joanne Sgro-Killworth is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist and Publicist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training.

Joanne's fitness plans, recipes and lifestyle advice are available globally on her website http://www.happiwoman.com/ She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband and children, where she runs her fitness and publicity business, JSK PR, http://www.jskpr.com/

Reviewed March 3, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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