Aging is something no one can avoid. From the moment we are born, we start growing older. As we do, we gain wisdom, experience, and clarity, but we also gain things we may not want, such as excess weight, arthritis, and spinal stenosis.
Rowing will no doubt help you shed extra pounds and live a long and happy life, but can you still row if you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis? The short answer is yes, for as long as you don’t feel pain when working out on a rowing machine.
However, you know that there’s more to the issue than my short answer. So in today’s article, I want to tell you what I’ve learned about spinal stenosis and other health problems and how they relate to rowing and other exercises.
Please remember that I am not a doctor, and this should not be considered medical advice. This information is for educational purposes only.
You should always seek out professional medical advice from your doctor or chiropractor regarding your health condition and whether a new exercise, such as rowing, would be safe for you.
Exercise and Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis, in short, is a narrowing of the spaces in the vertebrae of the spine. This often occurs due to age or because of osteoarthritis.
While it often occurs in the low back, which is called lumbar spinal stenosis, it can frequently occur in the neck as well. When this happens in the neck, it is called cervical stenosis.
Can Any Exercise Cure Spinal Stenosis?
There is no cure for spinal stenosis; physical therapy and regular exercise can help stop or lessen some of the symptoms.
While some people experience numbness or weakness in the hands and feet, others feel pain in their neck or lower back. Others experience none of the above spinal stenosis symptoms.
A physical therapist can help you find ways to enjoy your life and get in regular exercise, such as rowing.
What Is the Best Exercise for Spinal Stenosis?
Generally speaking, if you find that a certain type of exercise does not cause you pain, then it is safe to continue doing so. You can try a recumbent bike, swimming, rowing, or any other physical activity. In short, there is no “best” exercise. The best exercise would be the one that doesn’t cause you pain.
How Can Rowing Help a Person with Spinal Stenosis?
Rowing is a full-body workout that is low-impact. This means that you can get all the benefits of aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening that come from rowing without putting stress on the joints.
The muscle groups that attach to the spine, including the glutes, abs, and quads, get plenty of exercise from rowing machines.
When these muscles are strengthened and warmed up, they improve circulation to the spine. Good blood flow is vital because it brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to the entire central nervous system.
One of the most important things to remember is that the entire spine needs support from the core muscles. Strong core muscles will help improve the health of the spine since it won’t need to work as hard to support itself.
Core strengthening exercises are always a good idea, as is maintaining a healthy weight. These two items alone reduce the long periods of time where pressure is put on the spinal cord.
You can strengthen all of these muscles, including your core muscles, by using a rowing machine.
- Click Here to Learn About Adaptive or Disabled Rowing!
Isn’t Rowing Bad for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis?
No, not necessarily.
Any exercise that causes you pain should be discussed with your doctor or physical therapist, especially if you have lumbar stenosis.
However, most people who try rowing experience back pain because they are not performing the strokes correctly. So it’s important to take a few classes or watch one of the many online videos that explain the proper positions you should take during the rowing strokes.
Learn more with our full video by our Experienced Erg Rower Max Secunda:
What Activities Should be Avoided with Spinal Stenosis?
Since the space inside the vertebra become smaller with this health condition, you want to avoid exercises that will compress the space even further.
Some exercises and activities that should be avoided by people with spinal stenosis include:
- Contact sports
- Excessive back extension (when you place your hands on your hips and lean backward)
- Running or jogging
- Extended walking
- Lying in bed or couch surfing for long periods
- Any excessive force on the back, including some dumbbell or strength training exercises
You can reduce pain and get those feel-good endorphins flowing by engaging in healthy exercise and staying active as much as possible.
Should I See a Physical Therapist?
If possible, yes. A physical therapist can help you find exercises or physical activity that will reduce back pain and prevent further injury to your spine.
If you don’t have access to a physical therapist, you might also look into chiropractic care. I know chiropractic has helped me considerably during my life, and I found one secret that I’ll share with you shortly.
Is a Rowing Machine Good for Spinal Arthritis?
For the majority of people, yes, rowing machines are an excellent way to avoid leg pain, back pain, and improve posture in just a few minutes.
Rowing machines that work best for most people include a single handle to pull on, rather than individual handles, and one that uses water resistance or magnetic resistance. These types of rowing machines have a smoother type of motion that most people with stenosis find to be soothing.
- Click Here to Read My Full Ergatta Rowing Machine Review!
My Personal Secret Weapon
While I don’t have spinal stenosis, I have had back problems for many years.
My therapy included the use of a traction type of device at my chiropractors, and I was thrilled when I found a home traction device made by Teeter called FitSpine.
Sometimes called inversion tables, these devices work by stretching the spine and creating a very tiny amount of space between the vertebrae. It doesn’t hurt at all and in fact, it feels so good, I’ve been known to doze off while using one!
That tiny amount of space that a Teeter inversion table creates may be small, but it makes all the difference!
Join Olympic Rower Rachael Taylor in Trying the Teeter FitSpine Inversion Table:
There is no substitute for an inversion table. I highly recommend one to all my friends who suffer from back pain!
The Bottom Line
If you suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis, arthritis in the spine, or cervical lumbar stenosis, you can safely exercise using a rowing machine, as long as it doesn’t cause you pain.
I highly recommend that you speak to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine or exercising in any manner.
It is far better to spend a few minutes with your doctor or other health care professional and taking care of your body than to exacerbate a health issue and pay the price later on.
Be safe and healthy friends. Try a rowing machine at your local gym first before deciding to buy one, and do invest in an inversion table. You won’t regret it!
Written by Petra Amara – RowingCrazy.com
CEO & Founder of RowingCrazy, National Rower, Coxswain Womens Eight Team, Rowing Coach & Writer
Petra is a Mother of two and owner of Rowingcrazy.com. Petra lives and breathes rowing, she also has a passion for writing which lead her to start RowingCrazy.com to share her rowing experience and expertise with others.