Effective Therapy for Spinal Stenosis

Living with spinal stenosis can be challenging, but there are various therapeutic options available to help manage the condition effectively. In this article, we will explore both active and passive therapies that can provide relief for individuals with spinal stenosis. 

Passive therapies – such as deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapies, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), and ultrasound – offer non-invasive and relaxing approaches. On the other hand, active therapy involves engaging in specific exercises tailored to strengthen the back, increase flexibility, and improve posture. 

Additionally, in addition to passive and active therapies, we will discuss the role that chiropractic care plays in managing spinal stenosis symptoms.

What Are Passive Therapies for Spinal Stenosis?

Passive therapy refers to treatments that someone or something does to you. They offer numerous benefits, including:

  • Relieve pain and discomfort
  • Reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Promote muscle relaxation and flexibility
  • Improve blood circulation to affected areas
  • Enhance overall well-being and quality of life

Deep Tissue Massage:

Deep tissue massage targets the deeper layers of muscles and connective tissues. It aims to reduce muscle tension, alleviate pain, and improve blood circulation in the affected areas. The therapist applies firm pressure and uses techniques such as kneading, friction, and stretching to release tension and promote relaxation. Deep tissue massage can provide immediate relief from pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance overall well-being.

Hot and Cold Therapies

Hot and cold therapies are often used interchangeably to manage spinal stenosis symptoms. Heat therapy, such as hot packs or warm baths, helps relax muscles, increase blood flow, and alleviate stiffness. Cold therapy, including ice packs or cold compresses, can reduce inflammation and numb the area, providing temporary pain relief. Alternating between hot and cold therapies can effectively reduce pain and promote healing.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS involves using a small device that emits low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate the nerves in the affected area. The electrical impulses help to disrupt pain signals and promote the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body. TENS therapy is non-invasive, easy to use, and provides effective pain relief, making it a popular choice for managing spinal stenosis symptoms.


Ultrasound therapy utilizes high-frequency sound waves to generate deep heat within the body tissues. The heat increases blood circulation, reduces muscle spasms, and promotes tissue healing. Ultrasound therapy is non-invasive and can effectively reduce pain, increase flexibility, and improve mobility in individuals with spinal stenosis.

What Is Active Therapy for Spinal Stenosis?

Active therapy involves engaging in targeted exercises designed to strengthen the back, increase flexibility, and improve posture. These exercises aim to alleviate pain, improve stability, and enhance overall spinal health. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, physical therapist, or chiropractor before starting any exercise regimen for spinal stenosis to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Benefits of active therapy include:

  • Strengthens core muscles to support the spine
  • Improves posture and spinal alignment
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion
  • Enhances overall spinal stability
  • Alleviates pain and reduces the risk of further complications

What Are Some Exercises for Spinal Stenosis?

Below are five exercises for individuals experiencing spinal stenosis. Seek out assistance from your chiropractor to learn which specific exercises will work best with your unique situation.

Cat-Camel Stretch

  • Start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine.
  • Slowly arch your back upward, tucking your chin towards your chest (cat position).
  • Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your back, lifting your head and chest upwards (camel position).
  • Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, focusing on the fluidity of the motion.

See how to do the cat-camel stretch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2kKOjpzK14 

Pelvic Tilts

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Gently tilt your pelvis backward, flattening your lower back against the floor.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then tilt your pelvis forward, arching your lower back slightly.
  • Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, focusing on engaging your core muscles.

You can view a video of pelvic tilts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWuR_U9ddcc 

Bird Dog

  • Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine.
  • Extend your right arm forward while simultaneously extending your left leg backward.
  • Keep your core engaged and your spine in a stable position.
  • Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
  • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side, alternating between sides.

Watch the bird dog stretch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LRjkbEy-qU 


  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  • Engage your core and gluteal muscles as you lift your hips off the ground.
  • Keep your shoulders and upper back on the floor while maintaining a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Hold the bridge position for a few seconds, then slowly lower your hips back down.
  • Repeat this movement for 10-15 repetitions, focusing on the contraction in your glutes.

You can view the bridge pose here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1qxWNjcleU 

Seated Spinal Rotation

  • Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your back straight.
  • Place your right hand on your left knee and gently rotate your torso to the left.
  • Use your left hand to hold onto the chair for support.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, feeling the gentle twist in your spine.
  • Repeat on the opposite side, placing your left hand on your right knee and rotating to the right.

See how to do a seated spinal rotation here: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/yIjaDUTSNVg 

How Chiropractic Therapies Help with Spinal Stenosis

Passive therapies such as deep tissue massage, hot and cold therapies, TENS, and ultrasound can provide significant relief for individuals with spinal stenosis. These therapies help reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle tension, promoting relaxation and improving overall well-being.

Active therapy, consisting of targeted exercises, plays a crucial role in managing spinal stenosis. These exercises strengthen core muscles, improve flexibility, enhance posture, and provide long-term stability for the spine. By engaging in regular exercise routines, individuals with spinal stenosis can experience reduced pain, improved functionality, and an enhanced quality of life.

Chiropractic care, which takes advantage of both active and passive therapies, is a valuable option for managing spinal stenosis symptoms. Chiropractors specialize in spinal adjustments and manipulations, which can alleviate pain, improve spinal alignment, and optimize nerve function. With a holistic approach to treatment, chiropractic care can provide long-lasting relief and promote overall spinal health.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of spinal stenosis, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or chiropractor. They can provide a tailored treatment plan that may include passive therapies, active exercises, and other chiropractic treatments. By seeking professional guidance, you can take proactive steps towards managing spinal stenosis and enjoying a pain-free, active lifestyle. Schedule a chiropractic appointment online or call us today.

Dr. Tim Swift proudly serves San Clemente, San Juan, Dana Point, and the surrounding areas of Orange County, California.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

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Dr. Tim Swift

Dr. Tim Swift combines his chiropractic expertise with regenerative medicine to bring a passion for restoring health, mobility, and vitality to help his community feel and function better.


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