Millions of Americans suffer from arthritis in the neck. In fact, after the age of 60 more that 85% of people will have arthritis in their neck. As we age, the years spent holding up our 8-10 pound heads gradually degenerates the cervical (neck) spine joints. Cervical arthritis occurs when the joints between the vertebrate in the neck become damaged or worn from years of overuse, poor posture, or injury when the person was younger. The increased sedentary lifestyle of many Americans also contributes to the increased wear and tear in the neck. Poor posture with use of computers, cell phones, and computer/desk work takes its toll on your body. The symptoms of cervical arthritis includes chronic pain, muscle weakness, numbness, loss of motion, headaches, and balance problems. So what can you do if your cervical arthritis literally becomes a “pain in the neck”. I have listed 5 simple home exercises you can do that will help alleviate the symptoms of cervical arthritis.
Four Way Head Turns
Sit up straight in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly bend your head forward, then bend backward and look upward. Next, slowly tilt your head side to side (try to touch your ear to your shoulder) making sure you keep your shoulder down. Do this to both sides. Then slowly look over the shoulder is both directions. Hold each direction for 3-5 seconds and repeat sequence 10 times.
Sit up straight in a chair with your shoulder back and your eyes looking forward. Keep your chin level with the floor as you pull your chin straight in without looking down. You should feel a stretch in the back of the neck. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times. Make sure you breathe in through your nose and out your mouth during the exercise.
Shoulder rolls are a good exercise to keep your shoulder and neck joints moving. Exercising your shoulders will help to strengthen the muscles that support your neck. Start by sitting up straight in a chair or standing upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Roll your shoulders up, back, down and forward slowly. Do 10 repetitions.
Poor posture results in increased stress to the neck. Since most of us spend hours a day sitting, working at a computer, or driving the muscles in front of the chest (pectoral muscles) will become tight and this pulls the shoulders and head forward. The corner stretch is a great way to prevent tightness in the chest muscle. Find a doorway or empty corner of the room and place your hands just above shoulder height on the doorjamb or wall. Gently lean into the doorway or corner until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest. It should not be painful in the shoulders or neck. You may need to adjust your hand position either up or down to focus the stretch in the chest muscles. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds and repeat 5 times.
A recent study in Finland showed that strengthening exercises were effective for relieving chronic neck pain and improving one’s ability to look and move in all directions. Neck isometrics are a safe and effective way to strengthen the neck and improve symptoms of cervical arthritis. Start by sitting upright in a chair. Place your hand on your forehead and attempt to bend your neck forward, but use the hand to resist the movement so no motion occurs. This will force the neck muscle to contract without moving the head. Then place your hand or hands on the back of your head and attempt to bend your neck backwards. But resist the movement with your hands forcing the back neck muscle to contract. Next, place the right hand along the right side of the head and attempt to bend the neck to the right shoulder, but resist the movement with the hand causing the right neck muscle to contract. Then repeat on the left side with the left hand. Hold all contractions for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times in each direction.
At first, you may have trouble completing all 10 repetitions. If this is the case, just start out with 1-2 repetitions and gradually increase the repetitions over time. If any of the exercises increase your pain levels or you experience any numbness or weakness in the hands, stop the exercises and follow up with your physician. Work on these exercises daily for 4-6 weeks. But if your pain persists, call us at 1-800-930-8803 as we are experts in treating cervical arthritis.