7 Cervical Radiculopathy Exercises To Do (And a Few to Avoid)

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If diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy (a pinched nerve in the neck), you know the pain it causes and how it disrupts your quality of life.

To help manage your cervical radiculopathy and reduce your pain, here are a number of simple exercises that may help:

  1. Chin Tucks
  2. Shoulder-Blade Squeezes
  3. Neck Extensions
  4. Isometric Holds
  5. Side to Side Strengthener
  6. Side Tilt
  7. Shoulder Circles

As always, discontinue any exercise that exacerbates your pain, and consult your physician or another medical professional before starting a new exercise regimen.

7 Cervical Radiculopathy Exercises To Do

Often, if you are diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy, exercises like those listed above can be incorporated into a complete cervical chiropractic care regimen. To learn more, let’s discuss each of these exercises in depth:

1) Chin Tucks

You can do this stretch sitting up straight in a sturdy chair or standing with your back pressed against a wall. Now, align your ears with your shoulders – you’ll probably need a mirror for reference. Tuck your chin down, hold for five seconds, and then release. Make sure you do this exercise at least ten times a day. It’s great for improving your posture and strengthening your neck.

2) Shoulder-Blade Squeezes

While standing with good posture try to relax so that your body is loose. Then, compress your shoulder blades in back and try to get them to touch. You should feel a light pull. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat five times. This exercise is great for releasing tension across your upper back and shoulders. It helps calm tight muscles which, in turn, can speed the healing of some neck issues like cervical radiculopathy.

3) Neck Extensions

Lie on a bed with your back flat. Position your neck near the edge of the bed so that your head extends just beyond. Lower your head toward the ground and hold for approximately one minute. Lift your head and then repeat the exercise several times. This stretch should gently lengthen your spine by creating space between the vertebrae of your neck. This, in turn, can help alleviate some causes of cervical radiculopathy and provide you with significant neck pain relief.

4) Isometric Holds

Sit in a chair keeping note of your posture. Firmly press the palm of your hand into your forehead but press back with your head to keep it from moving. Hold for roughly 15 seconds. Release. Then, repeat several times. Generally, isometric exercises are directed toward specific muscle groups. This one is designed to focus on the neck, building up muscle, and reducing tension and pressure.

5) Side to Side Strengthener

While sitting in a chair with proper posture, turn your head as far to the right as you can (imagine looking over your shoulder). If you like, gently place your hand on your chick to increase the stretch (but not too much). Hold your final position for about 20 seconds, then do the same to the other side. Repeat 3 – 5 times each side.

6) Side Tilts

Again, while sitting in a chair, gently try to lay your left ear down on your left shoulder. You can use your hand to press softly down on your head to assist – but be gentle. Hold this position for a 20 count, before repeating on the other side. Do each side again around three or five times. This exercise helps improve flexibility in the neck which can, in turn, help cervical radiculopathy..

7) Shoulder Circles

From a standing position, while keeping an eye on posture, raise both your shoulders. From there, circle your shoulders forward five times. Pause. Then circle your shoulders backward five times. If you want to mix it up, you can circle one shoulder at a time. To help alleviate cervical radiculopathy, repeat this exercise, throughout the day, three to five times.

It is worth pointing out that exercise, in general, and core exercises, in particular, can significantly help relieve neck pain. When the muscles in your buttocks, back, and abdomen are strong, your neck muscles will benefit and won’t need to exert themselves as much..

6 Cervical Radiculopathy Exercises To Avoid

Although some exercises are very helpful for cervical radiculopathy, others can pose problems and should be avoided. These include:

1) Jumping

Any exercise that incorporates a lot of jumping should be avoided – whether it be skipping rope, basketball, or something else. Generally speaking, strenuous exercises, like jumping, can put unnecessary strain on the area suffering from cervical radiculopathy.

2) Running

Much like jumping, running is a form of strenuous exercise that can cause unwanted strain in the portion of your neck affected by cervical radiculopathy.. This is particularly undesirable when the original cause of the cervical radiculopathy is a bulging disc. Particular care is required when you have a bulging disc and you’re doing neck exercises.

3) Lifting Weights

You should also avoid lifting weights because weightlifting is particularly strenuous, especially those exercises that are meant to strengthen the upper body. Although strengthening those muscles is a good goal, cervical radiculopathy requires gentler methods.

4) Rolling Your Neck Around

Although this exercise isn’t necessarily strenuous, the motion involved in its execution can grind vertebrae together resulting in more inflammation of the tissues, more severe pinching of the nerves, and more aggravation of your cervical radiculopathy. When stretching the neck, stretch side to side or up and down – don’t roll around.

5) Driving

Technically, this isn’t an exercise, but you should avoid doing it, if the range of motion you get with your neck is sufficiently diminished by your cervical radiculopathy. Basically, if you can’t glance back over your shoulder to check traffic without difficulty, you shouldn’t be driving.

6) Sleeping On Your Stomach

Again, this technically isn’t an exercise, but as everyone sleeps, and there are really only three possible sleep positions (back, side, front), it is worth pointing out that you should avoid sleeping on your stomach. This sleep position, basically, guarantees poor spinal alignment and that can play a critical role when you are suffering from cervical radiculopathy. That is just one of many tips to help you sleep with cervical radiculopathy.

What To Do If You’re Diagnosed With Cervical Radiculopathy?

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons up to 75% of the cases of acute cervical radiculopathy improve spontaneously. As a result, nonsurgical forms of treatment are usually tried first.

In fact, that is pretty much the credo of chiropractors everywhere. Exhaust all conservative treatment options first and avoid surgery whenever possible. Surgery, particularly on the neck and back, can have risks you may want to avoid unless absolutely necessary. Conservative treatments include such options as chiropractic care, massage therapy, and physical therapy in Juneau.

If you need more convincing, ScienceDirect asserts that 70% to 90% of cases of cervical radiculopathy can be treated with nonsurgical methods and have good to excellent results.

Furthermore, since chiropractors study the musculoskeletal system, cervical radiculopathy falls squarely in their area of expertise. So, if you are diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy, you may want to seek the advice of a chiropractor. They may be able to diagnose and treat your condition, keeping you safely away from surgery.

Conclusion

In the end, there are a number of simple nonsurgical ways to manage cervical radiculopathy. Such, in fact, is not limited to the exercises listed above. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy, you should consult a medical professional such as your primary care physician or a chiropractor, as mentioned above. They can assist you and develop a treatment plan geared to the specifics of your case.

Sources:

Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

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