Back Pain – Degenerative Disk Disease & Spinal Stenosis

James Fowler Physical TherapyBack & Neck, Pain & Pain ManagementLeave a Comment

Back pain is an issue affecting millions of Americans and continues to be a growing condition. According to studies about 80% of Americans suffer from back pain and it’s the leading cause for job related disability. Chronic back pain is a condition that can linger for months and should be taken seriously. It’s critical to seek a seasoned doctor and physical therapist to tailor a thorough plan of care to aid the recovery process.

At James Fowler PT we see a regular flow of back pain cases, in particular spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease patients. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can occur in any region of the spine. The narrowing can cause spinal restriction resulting in a neurological deficit. Degenerative disc disease is a condition caused by the breakdown of intervertebral discs. As the spine ages the discs dry out and shrink. Listed below are four exercises we’ve found helpful to open joint space and relieve pressure for patients.

Physioball Rollouts Forward

  • Sit up tall on a chair, holding a ball in front of you with your hands.
  • Let your chin drop to your chest, and your head start to roll down. As your hands are connected to the ball, let your weight pour into the ball and the ball will take you forward. Keep your hips grounded and connected to the chair as you maintain the stretch for a moment. To come back to the initial position, let the tailbone drop down and roll up segmentally through the spine (tailbone, low back, middle back, upper back, head).
  • Repeat 10 times.

Modified Piriformis Stretch


  • Lie on your back with both legs straight. Lift one leg to your chest and grab your knee with the opposite hand.
  • Gently pull your leg across your chest towards the opposite shoulder until a gentle stretch is felt in the back of your hip.
  • Maintain the position and relax.
  • Be sure to keep the hip bone of the leg you are stretching connected to the floor.
  • Relax and hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Prayer Stretch


*Disclaimer – only perform this exercise if it does not cause pain or pressure in your knees.


  • Kneel on all fours, making sure your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips.
  • Slowly move your hips backward, reaching the buttocks to your heels. Let your tailbone be heavy and drop down to the floor. Reach your hands in front of you to increase the stretch. Widen your knees if needed.
  • Relax and hold the position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times.

Neutral Spine – Transverse Abdominis Rec



  • Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and head supported on a pillow.
  • Place your hands just inside your hip bones on either side to monitor the contraction of the transversus abdominis muscle.
  • Find your neutral spine position by slowly rolling your hips backward to press your back toward the floor, then slowly rolling your hips forward to lift your back away from the floor; Slowly move between these two extreme positions to find the middle. This is your neutral spine position – small space between your low back and the mat. Your low back should not be pressed flat against the mat but there shouldn’t be a large arch in your low back.
  • Keep your neutral spine position throughout the exercise.
  • INHALE – fill your belly with air.
  • EXHALE – sink your belly button toward your spine and draw your hip bones together across the front as if you are putting on a tight belt. There should be a sinking and narrowing sensation and you should feel a deep muscle contraction under your fingers without any superficial abdominal activation (no rigidity or clenching).
  • Repeat the breath pattern.

The information provided in this blog by James Fowler PT is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified healthcare provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of James Fowler PT. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *