Posture and Nutrition Adjustments for Lumbar Stenosis

For people with lumbar stenosis, it is important to maintain good posture at all times, including when walking, sitting, lifting, bending, twisting, and sleeping. Pain from stenosis is reduced when correct posture reduces abnormal pressure on the spinal cord and the nerve roots.

The back works with every activity throughout the day—picking something up, sitting in a chair, changing positions or opening a door—all require the multiple structures in the back to function. The back is designed for this kind of work, but it is important to do these kinds of activities in a healthy way to protect the back from strain or injury.

  • When picking something up, even a light object, take care not to bend from the waist. Instead, bend from the hips and knees. Keep the back straight. Hold the object to be lifted close to the body.
  • Practice good standing posture, which includes standing with weight on the balls of the feet, keeping the feet shoulder-width apart, not locking the knees, keeping the head directly over the neck and not slouched forward. When sitting, avoid leaning forward, make sure there is proper lumbar support for the inward curve of the low back, and keep both feet flat on the ground.
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  • Make sure that your mattress offers support for the lumbar spine. Most people find a medium firm mattress gives more support. Some people find that a pressure conforming mattress such as the Tempurpedic or other brands with similar products may also be beneficial.

Nutrition and Spinal Stenosis

Believe it or not, you really are what you eat. In general, staying hydrated, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, not smoking, and minimizing red meat, caffeine and alcohol are good dietary guidelines.

A healthy diet will help you stay at a healthy weight, reduce the body's propensity towards inflammation, and keep your spinal discs as well as all your tissues hydrated, all of which will help reduce pain from lumbar spinal stenosis.

Many patients ask, "But, even if I do all of this, I'll still have the stenosis in my spine, won't I?" Yes, that's true. None of the above will change the bony structures in the spine. However, just because a person has a tight, stenotic spinal canal, doesn't mean that he or she necessarily will have any stenosis symptoms.

By staying active, strengthening the body's core muscles, stretching the surrounding muscles, practicing better body biomechanics, using basic pain management tools, and eating a balanced and nutritious diet, many people have a good chance of reducing or eliminating their symptoms.

Written by Grant Cooper, MD