Doctors and physical therapists will often suggest specific neck exercises as part of a course of conservative treatment for patients who suffer from cervical (upper) spinal osteoarthritis. These exercises are designed to improve flexibility within the neck and also to increase the strength of neck muscles. The goal of exercise isn’t to cure the arthritis, but rather to help limit pain and maintain flexibility in the neck.
Guide to neck exercises for cervical arthritis
If you have been diagnosed with neck arthritis, there are a few things to remember before beginning a new exercise program. First, consult your doctor to ensure you are healthy enough to perform the physical activity required and to also ensure that any exercises will not cause further damage. Second, when you begin an exercise plan, start slowly and work gradually toward activities that may be more demanding. Next, remember to breathe as you exercise. Holding your breath during exercise deprives the muscles of oxygen needed to sustain physical activity. Finally, listen to your body and stop immediately if you start to feel uncomfortable.
Some simple neck arthritis exercises a qualified physician or physical therapist may recommend include:
- Cervical extension — turning the face toward the ceiling
- Cervical flexion — lowering the chin to the chest
- Cervical rotation — turning the face to either side
- Lateral flexion — lowering the ear toward the shoulder on either side
- Isometric exercises — using the hands for resistance to build strength as you move the head forward, backward or sideways
In many cases, exercising to relieve symptoms can be an easy and effective neck arthritis treatment. Sometimes, however, a program of neck arthritis exercises combined with other conservative treatments is not enough to limit symptoms satisfactorily. When the chronic pain of neck arthritis symptoms persists, or your range of motion remains severely restricted after months of conservative treatment, a physician may recommend surgery as an option.
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