Pilates Modifications for Spinal Stenosis

I know some Pilates exercises (e.g. Swimming) shouldn't be done if you have spinal stenosis.



Can these exercises be modified so they can be done without pain?





Jennifer's Response:

You are correct in that most prone or exercises done lying on the stomach tend to put your back in extension which is not recommended for spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis narrows the spinal canal and can cause painful compression of the discs if they pinch a nerve.

My recommendation if you feel the need to perform these prone exercises such as the swimming, single leg pumps, dart, etc. is to place a small pillow or towel under your pelvis/lower abdomen.

This causes the back to flex just slightly, which should allow you to perform the exercises without pain and still get some deep abdominal work and in the spinal extensors.

You can find this pilates exercise and many other modifications for back and joint pain in the newly revised Pilates Ebook found here.


Work in only a pain free range of motion. As you get stronger you may be able to increase your range, but only as tolerated.

I'm very glad you are looking at Pilates to help with your stenosis. Some people shy away from doing anything that may cause more pain.

I have found with my clients who have stenosis, Pilates done with proper form and progression can be a great help in increasing core strength, and thus, decreasing their pain.

Best Regards to Your Health!

Comments for Pilates Modifications for Spinal Stenosis

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Nov 09, 2011
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use of pilates stick
by: Anonymous

will someone please tell me what to do with a pilates stick? My doctor suggested buying it but he does not want me to get on the floor. that jist leaves me using my arms in any way I can think of with no guidance. Now I'm getting pains in my neck and shoulders. I'm at my wits end!

Sep 29, 2008
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Good topic to address
by: Kim McGuire

It seems you see a lot about osteroperosis and how to modify exercises, but not spinal stenosis. This is good information to have.

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