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Low-Back Pain and Spinal Stenosis


Four out of five adults experience low-back pain at some time. Low-back pain affects 80% of the adult population. Most back pain cases are due to a self-limiting musculoskeletal condition, also known as low-back pain and lumbar sprain syndrome. Lumbar sprain syndrome may occur after an unusual effort such as heavy lifting, but often occurs after a trivial effort such as sneezing or bending over. This type of low-back pain often resolves within 72 hours, but most patients with a history of acute episodes end up having additional chronic symptoms. If back pain does not resolve and is persistent for 3 months or longer, it is known as chronic low-back pain.

Research shows that chronic low-back pain has a direct effect on postural stability, specifically demonstrated by a lower level of balance on one foot. As proper walking mechanics create the ability to balance on one foot, it is easy to see the effect chronic low-back pain has on efficient walking, which can ultimately lead to a loss of independence for an older adult. It is shown that people who have chronic low-back pain have deficits in motor skills in addition to ineffective coupling of muscles in the pelvic region.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a specific form of chronic low-back pain that is particularly common in older adults. It results from the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar region, which causes the vertebral bodies and inter vertebral disks to compress the spinal cord and nerve roots. The most common complaint in people with spinal stenosis is consistent with the entrapment of the sciatic nerve: pain and numbness in the lower back, buttocks, and hamstrings. Spinal stenosis may be present in the cervical and thoracic spine and may affect other locations of the body including the arms and trunk.

Conservative treatment options for lumbar spinal stenosis include anti-inflammatory medication, epidural corticosteroid injections, and lumbar support braces. Therapeutic exercise is an effective treatment strategy for this condition. People who do not find relief with these treatments may require surgery, which includes a laminectomy or spinal fusion, where adjacent vertebral bodies are, fused together using bone grafts.




These exercise EXAMPLES are INFORMATION ONLY and are not intended to be instruction, advice, or incorporated into any individual exercise program. Use of or experimentation with any of the EXAMPLE EXCERCISES will be solely at your own risk. Always consult a Physician before beginning any exercise program. It is highly recommended to seek the advice of a Certified Personal Trainer, especially one with Senior Fitness experience.


Exercise for low-back pain is an effective mode of treatment. Research demonstrates the effectiveness of proper training for the relief and reversal of chronic low-back pain. Stabilization level core exercises, which involves little to no movement of the spine, have proven efficient for strengthening of the core-stabilizing muscles and pain relief within one week. Strengthening exercises for the spine are effective in increasing strength and decreasing chronic low-back pain.



©2014 NASM National Academy of Sports Medicine

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