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5 Best Cervical Stenosis Exercises & Stretches – Ask Doctor Jo


hey everybody it’s Doctor Jo and unicorn Remy, and today I’m gonna show you my top 5 ways to relieve cervical stenosis so let’s get started. so for cervical stenosis, which is stenosis in your neck, and stenosis is just narrowing of the canals where the nerves go out. and so when those canals get smaller, then it presses on the nerve and that’s what causes a lot of the pain. so going back into extension a lot of times will aggravate that pain because it’ll make those canals even smaller. so what I want to start off with is an active range of motion movement combined with isometric exercises. and so isometric exercises are basically you’re contracting the muscle, but you’re not moving. so it makes it less painful. and then you say “active range of motion isometrics not moving, how do I do that?” well you’re gonna start off with the isometric exercise. so you’re gonna push into something, usually your hand, to get that activation of the muscle and then relax and then you’re going to do that a couple times. and then do the active range of motion because a lot of times if you’re limited in the motion and you do those isometrics, then you’ll have more motion. so we’re just going to start off with the cervical side bending. so if you’re going this way, and let’s say you just try it once or twice and it’s pretty tight, I’m just gonna place my hand on the side of my head, and I’m gonna push into my hand, and going that direction, but I’m not gonna go anywhere because I’m just pushing into the hand. so just push for about three to five seconds. I’m really just not pushing it a hundred percent, maybe just starting off with about 50 percent of your push, but push into it, relax, do that maybe twice in one spot, and then try going over again and see if you get a little bit further than you did before. if you do then go over a little bit just to the point where you’re maybe starting to feel some pain, and then do that isometric exercise again. so pushing into it, relax, pushing into it, and then lots of times you can then go even more into that range of motion after you do that. so do that on both sides pushing in, going a little bit further, pushing in, but when you’re activating the muscle you’re just staying in one spot. so you can do that with side bending, you can also do that with cervical rotation. so this time I’m doing this motion, but now I’m just pushing into my hand again, but the motion that I’m doing is this. so if I get to here and it’s tight, then I push, push, relax, and then usually I can turn just a little bit more. so that’s the way to kind of combine them together and usually it’s really good because it just helps kind of loosen everything up, but you’re strengthening at the same time. so then the next one is going to be a chin tuck. so with chin tucks, you if you’ve seen some of my other videos, it’s really one of my favorites because it’s not only a stretch, but again it’s an exercise as well. so with the chin tuck you’re not tucking down, but you’re taking that chin and tucking it back. you want to keep your chin at a at a level kind of neutral position. so you’re not pushing in like this, you’re not pushing up like this, but just straight ahead and taking that chin and pushing back. so it’s almost like if there was a wall here, you’re trying to push your head into that wall, and then it’s going to give you like a lot of little Chin’s right there. so just holding it for about three to five seconds in that position. so you’re pulling in, holding it, and then a lot of times you’ll see once you let go, you’re not going back as far because it’s kind of resetting all those muscles. these these muscles get really really tight and a lot of times when those muscles get tight again is pulling on those vertebrae and really shortening making those canals a little bit smaller. so if you have those nice and loose, it helps relax that area and then doesn’t put as much pain or pressure on those nerves. so you can do those five times holding each one three to five seconds. so then the next one is just going to be a full stretch. so you’re going into getting those 30 second holds doing three times. so we’re gonna do an upper trap stretch. those upper traps all the way up here in the back of the neck, so again when those are really tight that causes a lot of pain and it puts pressure on that cervical stenosis. so having those looser we’ll take that pressure off of that area. so the side that you want to stretch take your hand and just kind of sit on it. if you if it’s too uncomfortable to sit on it, if you’re sitting in a chair, you can just kind of take your hand and push it, but by sitting on it it keeps that shoulder down to give you a better stretch. if I’m stretching my right side then I’m going to take my left hand and I’m just pulling my head over like I’m trying to get my ear to my shoulder. so I’m just giving a gentle pull, and I should feel a stretch right kind of in the back along the side of the neck through here. and again so you’re holding it for 30 seconds. and with the stenosis I would definitely do both sides, so then after the 30 seconds then switch hand underneath pulling over to the side. it should be a comfortable stretch, kind of tension and pressure but not painful. so three times on each side. I usually alternate back and forth. if you want to do them all on one side, you can, but you don’t have to. so the next stretch is going to be a levator scapulae stretch. that muscle is the one that’s back here it connects to your shoulder blade or your scapula and then it pulls it up like this, but it comes all the way up into the neck and that cervical spine, so when it’s tight it puts a lot of pressure on that spine. and again and also stress when you hold it up there causes a lot of pain too. so it’s really good to stretch out. so this time the side you want to stretch you’re just gonna take your hand and kind of put it back here where you almost want to take that elbow and point it towards the ceiling. if you can’t do that or that’s uncomfortable that’s okay, you don’t have to. that’s just again pulling that or pushing that shoulder blade down to hold it in place. some people just hold their arm up, that’s fine to do – I just like it a little bit better like this. then you’re gonna take the other hand and put it behind your head. and you’re gonna not come down straight forward, not out to the side, but kind of at an angle. so take your nose and go down towards your opposite knee. that’s the angle you want to go to. and then you’re just gonna stretch through this way and you should feel that stretch right back through here. so again it should only be tension, a little bit of pressure, it shouldn’t be pain, and holding it for 30 seconds, doing three on each side. so the last one is going to be an anterior scalene stretch. and again these muscles in here have a lot to do with that whole cervical region, so when they’re tight they’re just pulling and putting a lot of pressure in that area. and so getting those loosened up is really going to help that stenosis. so this time what you want to do, I’m stretching this side, I’m going to take my opposite hand and just kind of place it on my collarbone or that clavicle right there. then I’m gonna turn my head away and then lift up my ear like I’m I’m taking that year towards the ceiling. and I should feel that nice stretch through right here. and just kind of holding that collarbone down there just helps enhance the stretch a little bit. so you don’t have to, you can just kind of turn and look up, but I always get a little bit of a better stretch if I pull down that way. so again this is another one where you’re doing it for 30 seconds, doing three on each side. so those are my top five ways to relieve cervical stenosis. if you’d like to help support my channel, make sure you click on the link up there. and don’t forget to subscribe by clicking down there. and remember be safe, have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.

Joseph Wolf

42 Comments

  1. Are you on Instagram Joe mam ? I want to follow you on there please tell me your username. I want to know about neck stiffness . And it's cure please suggest me the video of neck stiffness

  2. Please make a video on neck stiffness ,
    Is it possible to recover neck stiffness that is occurred from last 1 year by doing these exercises mam ?

  3. Since I had surgery on my neck in 2016, I have problems with range of motion in the areas you mentioned in the video. I will definitely take your advice. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for this!! My neck is getting worse and really need good exercises specifically for Cervical Stenosis

  5. Those are great stretches! I knew them before but forgot them and stopped doing them. Thanks for the reminder! I am going to start doing them again!

  6. Thank you so much for this! Excellent timing because my doctor told me this is why my thumb is numb. As soon as I get the inflammation down I will be using this video to help!

  7. Thank you for the exercises. I have severe stenosis of C5/C6 right nerve channel. So when I am stretching the right side of my neck by pulling my left ear towards my left shoulder then at certain point I start feeling numbness in my right thumb. Is it OK to increase the stretch further or I should stop at this point?

  8. Dr jo when I doing weight training that time my neck and shoulder pain from left side.these exercises will cure my problem

  9. Dr Joe, I do have cervical stenosis and disc dehydration(I had a MRI) but no pain in my neck. The pain is as the base of my skull which causes some lightheadedness and mild dizziness when I turn my head. Will these exercises help that? Is the pain coming from my neck to my skull? Thank you!!

  10. Hello doctor Jo
    My c7 cervical bone sticks out whenever I tilt my head forward …. There is no pain…
    Can you suggest something.. 🙏

  11. Will pt and stretching stop the progression of spinal stenosis? Help to avoid surgery or just relieve symptoms?

  12. Mam I am unable to lift my right arm Is there any connection with spinal stenosis. Please reply soon

  13. Happy New year Dr. Jo!
    You were very helpful for me a few months ago when I found out I had ulnar nerve issues.
    It appears they are interested in elbow surgery. (I'm not). Then, after an Mri, also add suggested decompressive laminectomy surgery, for moderate stenosis. (I am also not interested!) The good surgeon also said "stay away from chiropractors" . I checked out Dr John Bergman videos, and like what he is saying about muscles etc. Thank you for the flossing and these excercises. Do you look at mri's

  14. Your 5 best cervical stenosis exercises & stretches are strictly for those who are diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis, but not for thoracic or lumbar spinal stenosis, am I right? Thank you and hope to get your professional advice.

  15. looking for a pair of office work shoes that support my lower pain resulting from lumbar stenosis as well. Do you have any suggestions, Dr. Jo? Thanks

  16. I had cervical spinal stenosis w/ mylopethy surgery about 6 months ago. I went to physical therapy for a couple of months. My neck pain is getting painful again. I am sure it's probably because I am not stretching. Should I do these daily?

  17. If you have more stenosis on one side than the other which side do you stretch? Or is it better to always stretch both?

  18. This really relieved my pain for most of the day, doing this every morning now to be most of the day fine, thanks so much.

  19. I like your video with explanations, initially, but could you make some videos where we just follow along an exercise routine, maybe to music. And refer them to this video for how to do it. Please? That would motivate me to do it every day if I could just follow along the routine.

  20. Hi – would these exercise series be good for cervical forminal stenosis as well?

  21. hello doctor jo. thank you for this really great and informative video. i have early signs of cervical stenosis. what would be some key excercises to strengthen the muscles in order to mobilize that spine in that area? thanks so much!

  22. I’ve got foraminal stenosis and 4 bulging discs in my neck. And pretty severe degeneration! Will these helpful? I haven’t had too much pain until lately when I try using my Denneroll….got to 12 min and wham started feeling aggravated!

  23. Can these stretches reverse cervical stenosis? Do these exercises help to open the spaces in the vertebrae?

  24. Hi, great video. I have cervical spinal stenosis and was wondering how often you think I should do these exercises

  25. A saving grace for me ohmygosh. Thank you for all the help! I could feel the difference 😊

  26. Hello Doctor Jo , i have migraine since 2 years , and i stopped school because of that i don't go with my friends any more because that affect my social relationships , my doctor told me that he thinks it's because of the cervical stenosis because every time i have migraine i have pain in my sholders too , and when i do sports i feel better , do you thinks its could be true ? and what should i do ? sometimes i train my spine but in the next day it's the same , can you help me please it will be great if some one save me life !!!

    thanks for what you do ..

  27. When I do the chin tuck, it hurts at the base of my neck, right where my shoulders start. Should I still do it?

  28. This week I was diagnosed with Neural foraminal stenosis. Is that the same thing as Cervical Stenosis? The exercises are really helpful and I am so grateful to AskDoctorJo for posting.

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