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Exercise to Relieve Spondylosis Pain

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Spondylosis (also called spinal osteoarthritis or just plain spinal arthritis) can be painful, so maybe the last thing you want to do is exercise. However, medical professionals do recommend that you keep your spine mobile by exercising and stretching on a regular basis. It should help you in the long run, even if it doesn't feel good now. It will help by reducing joint pain and stiffness, and it should help increase your muscle strength and endurance. If your muscles around your spine are working hard at supporting the spine, then you should have less pain.

Before beginning any exercise program, you should talk it over with your doctor who will be able to refer you to a physical therapist (PT). The PT can help you develop an appropriate exercise program.

Your exercise program will probably include these elements:

  • Range-of-motion exercises: These exercises will help keep your joints moving properly. Range of motion exercises can also help relieve stiffness and help maintain or even increase your flexibility.
  • Strength work: Here's where you can work on getting your muscles to better support your spine.

    If you have spondylosis in your low back (lumbar spine), you'll work on strengthening your back muscles and your core muscles (abs and obliques). Your core muscles work like a "front anchor" for your spine, so if they're strong, they take pressure off the spine.

    If you have spondylosis in your neck (cervical spine), you'll strengthen your neck muscles and your shoulders.
  • Cardio: Get your heart rate up (to an appropriate level—talk to your doctor or physical therapist about that) by walking, biking, or swimming. You should do some sort of cardio workout 3 times a week.

There's also an added benefit of exercise: It can help you lose weight or maintain your ideal weight. Extra weight can put extra pressure on your already painful joints, and exercise—along with eating right—is an effective way to control your weight.

Updated on: 07/31/12
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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