Spinal Stenosis and Weightlifting – Is it a Good Idea?
As we get older, almost all of us are going to have some degree of spinal stenosis. It is now felt that a moderate weight training regimen will make a difference with our future spine health. As with most things that are good for us, we should start now. Also, like most things, too much can be as harmful as not enough.
Spinal Stenosis is caused by wear and tear on our spine as the discs lose hydration and bone gradually builds up around the nerves, and spinal canal, causing pain, numbness and tingling in the extremities. One of the biggest reasons to add weight training to your workout is that it slows down the progression of osteoporosis. Because a big part of spinal stenosis is the “shrinking” of the foraminal space (where the nerves come out), strong bones in your vertebra will slow this down. If your “core “muscles are supporting your spine correctly, this will also slow down the disease. Moderate weight training will strengthen your core (abdominal, back and neck muscles) and should also reduce any back pain.
Before you start any weight training, make sure you are healthy enough to do it. Also talk to a certified trainer or physical therapist to see how to start slowly and what your weight limits should be. Too heavy weights will only cause injury and free weights should be monitored closely. The machines found in most gyms tend to be much safer if they are used with proper instruction. They protect from injury by keeping you in the proper position during the exercises.
Last of all, use your own body to make sure your core is strong enough to tolerate any additional weights, without injury. The five following exercises done for a few weeks before an actual weight training regimen will prepare your core muscles. If you don’t know these exercises, look them up or ask a personal trainer to teach them to you.
- The Bridge Pose – stretches hip flexors, and lower gluteal, abdominal and lower back muscles that stabilize the spine
- The Plank and Side Plank – strengthens all core muscles and protects the lower back
- Lunges – trains the body to protect the spine and stabilizes muscle during weightlifting
- Superman– improves spinal extension and prevents over extension
Remember, you are not about to enter the Mr. Universe Contest. Frequent reps are better for you than heavy weights and exercises such as the snatch, dead lift, squat, and clean and jerk, make you much more likely to cause back pain than prevent it. On the positive side, you will feel stronger, more energetic and look leaner with this plan… along with helping your future back.
- Iwamoto J, Sato Y, Takeda T, Matsumoto H. Effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis, knee osteoarthritis, and osteoporosis. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2010 Apr;22(2):116-22. PubMed PMID: 19920410