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Spinal Decompression Exercises For Your Neck, Back, And Spine

Last updated: May 23, 2022

Spinal compression happens to many people due to age-related degeneration or serious car accidents and sports injuries. Living a life with this condition can be incredibly troubling, but doesn't have to impact you forever. If you understand various spinal decompression exercises, including sternocleidomastoid exercises, you may improve your condition heavily. In this article, we cover:

Problems Spinal Decompression May Help

Spinal compression is a painful condition that can cause excessive suffering and pain if you don't manage it properly. There are many problems connected with spinal compression that the proper decompression exercises may help manage. Just a few of these common concerns include:spinal decompression exercises

  • Excessive Back Pain: Compression may cause heavy pain throughout your neck and back that may come in waves and increase intensity as this problem worsens.
  • Disc Problems: Compression may result in bulging or herniated discs or even degenerative disc disease that may weaken your spine and cause other health issues as well.
  • Sciatica: Enough compression may cause problems as diverse as injured spinal nerve roots and sciatica, a pain, weakness, or tingling throughout your leg.
  • Spinal Stenosis: This troubling condition may cause undue pain and is often the result of an untreated compressed spinal cord problem.

Decompression therapy focuses on removing this strain on your spine and helping minimize your suffering. Physical therapy is a strong care option for most people with this pain, though decompression exercises outside a doctor's office can also provide powerful benefits.

Spinal Decompression Exercises to Try

There are many routines you may try to work your spine and minimize compression. These include specialized Smith machine exercises, trunk lift exercises, and careful trap bar exercises that may decompress your spine. Talk to your back specialist before trying any of these routines.

Stretch Your Back

Multiple stretches may help decompress your spinal cord. These include the cat pose (a yoga pose where you arch your back while resting on all fours), the overhead stretch (lifting your hands above your head with the fingers interlocked), and the child's pose (sitting on your heels with your legs beneath you).

Hanging Bar

You may hang from a trap bar to help decompress your spine. Start by hanging from the bar at your full arm's length, pulling your legs up so that they don't touch the floor. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds and repeat it a few times every day. This pose literally stretches your spinal cord from its compression.

Trunk Lift

Lay flat on the floor with pillows under your head and legs. Carefully lift your head and shoulders straight up while pulling your shoulder blades back. Hold this position for two seconds, lower, rest for two seconds, and repeat several times. Only do as many as you feel comfortable performing.

Smith Machine Behind-the-Back Shrug

Position the bar at glute level and grab it slightly wider than shoulder width. Shrug the bar upwards and hold for one second before returning. This brief lift helps pull your spine up a little and also supports other muscles around it. Supporting your overall back health may minimize further compression risks.

Tip-Toe Stand

Stand straight with your back erect and your feet pointing outward. Lift your arms above your head and stand up on your tiptoes. Grab a chair or a wall if you need extra support. This lift not only works your spine but also supports related muscles throughout your back that may minimize compression and help relieve this pressure.

There are many routines you may try to work your spine and minimize compression. These include specialized Smith machine exercises, trunk lift exercises, and careful trap bar exercises that may decompress your spine. Talk to your back specialist before trying any of these routines.

Exercises to Avoid

While many exercises may help you overcome spinal decompression, others will cause serious problems. For example, there are many spondylolisthesis exercises to avoid because they simply put too much pressure on your spine and may cause worse compression. Routines to avoid include:

  • Sit-Ups: Sit-ups compress your spine and provide repeated strain that may worsen your compression. Skip this exercise if you want to avoid compression problems. Talk with your doctor about replacement exercises you may perform instead of this one.
  • Russian Twists: This exercise may improve your core muscles but also cause a serious strain on your spine that may worsen or even cause compression. Twisting, in general, is not a great idea with spinal compression and is something best avoided whenever possible.
  • Back-Heavy Sports: Try to avoid sports like wrestling, gymnastics, basketball, and football because they put unnecessary strain on your spine. Even practice for these sports may be problematic if they put a heavy strain on your compressed spine and cause more damage.
  • Some Pilates Routines: Working your core muscles with the “swimming” or “hurdler's stretch” in Pilates may worsen your spinal compression and cause unnecessary suffering. Take a break from these routines and give your spine some time to recover before trying them again.
  • Excessive Weightlifting: While some light weightlifting may help with compression, lifting heavy weights is not advised when recovering from spinal compression. Lift as little as 25 pounds when doing things like the Smith Machine shrug mentioned earlier.


Q: What Spinal Compression Complications May I Experience?

Untreated spinal compress may lead to a decrease in your motor skills, a loss of coordination, a decrease in reflexes, persistent pain, and even permanent damage. Some people might even experience partial paralysis if they don't get treatment and perform physical therapy or even get surgery.

Q: Should I Get Physical Therapy for Compression?

Physical therapy is a critical part of spinal decompression. Your therapist can teach you various routines that supplement the options listed here. They can also help manipulate your body and your spinal cord to ensure that they don't get damaged and minimize long-term complications.

Q: What Intensity Should I Use With These Routines?

Start these exercises at a minimal intensity to see how well you can tolerate them. Stop immediately if you notice any excessive pain or strain. You can work up to higher intensity as you progress, but should always work with your doctor to track your recovery and minimize complications.

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