Exercises for Spinal Stenosis in the Neck


Spinal stenosis is a medical term that describes and defines a narrowing of a part of the spine. In most cases, spinal stenosis is found in the upper or lower back. Spinal stenosis in the neck produces pain caused by bones and ligaments in the spine pressing on spinal nerves that pass through the vertebrae of the spine. The condition may cause tingling, weakness, pain, and loss of sensation in other parts of the body. Exercises for spinal stenosis may help relieve compression and pain.

Physical Therapy

  • Physical therapy is one of the most effective treatments for spinal stenosis in the neck. Along with medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), exercise can help reduce compression and relieve the pressure against nerves caused by the narrowing of the spinal column. Pain relief and increased range of motion are the goals of exercises that strengthen the cervical area of the neck and spine and increase flexibility and range of motion.


  • Exercising the neck will help keep muscles, tendons and ligaments strong and may help relieve compression caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal. For example, a good exercise for stenosis in the neck is to stretch the muscles in the upper back and allow gravity to help relieve pain and pinched nerves. You can do this by standing, then bending slowly forward, placing hands on the knees for support. Slowly lean forward with legs a little wider than hip distance. Allow the hands to brush along the front of the shins as you allow your head to lean downward, naturally stretching the muscles and tendons along the back of the neck. Let the head hang loosely for several seconds and then slowly raise yourself up, one vertebrae at a time, the head being the last to lift.

Range of Motion

  • Increase range of motion and flexibility by performing gentle neck rotation exercises and moves. For example. Look forward, then slowly turn the head to the right, then to the left. You may also gently stretch the muscles on the side of the neck by tilting the head to the right, like you're trying to touch your ear to your shoulder, then repeat on the other side. Such exercises (up to five on each side or five at a time depending on pain and ability) can be performed every day. Strong neck muscles will help hold the spinal column where it's supposed to be and reduce tension and the ache and tingling of pinched nerves.

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