A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain, limit motion and even lead to weakness in your arm. This condition is called cervical radiculopathy. The C7 nerve root is located between the seventh and eighth vertebrae in your neck. Cervical radiculopathy exercises can help reduce your symptoms.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the C7 nerve root is the most commonly affected by cervical radiculopathy.
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Check with your doctor or physical therapist before exercising if you have a pinched nerve. Depending on the underlying cause of your condition, some exercises might make your pain worse.
Increase Neck Range of Motion
Neck stiffness can contribute to C7 nerve compression. The opposite can also be true — having pain from a pinched nerve can make you less likely to move your neck, which can negatively impact range of motion. Perform these exercises in a pain-free range and perform 10 repetitions in each direction.
Move 1: Neck Flexion
- Sit up tall and squeeze your shoulder blades together — don't allow your shoulders to shrug up toward your ears.
- Gently lower your chin toward your chest as if you are nodding very slowly.
Move 2: Neck Extension
- Perform a chin tuck. Pull your chin back as if you are making a double chin.
- While maintaining the chin tuck, look up toward the ceiling.
Move 3: Side Bending
- Tip your right ear down toward your right shoulder. You will likely feel a stretch along the muscles on the left side of your neck. Do not bring your shoulder up toward your ear.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Move 4: Rotation
- Turn your neck to the right, attempting to look over your right shoulder.
- Repeat to the left.
Move 5: Shoulder Rolls
Perform shoulder rolls to improve flexibility in your neck muscles that run along the top of your shoulders.
- Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears.
- Circle your shoulders back and down, then around to the front.
- Repeat 10 times in a forward direction, then10 times backward.
Strengthen With Neck Isometrics
Neck isometric exercises will strengthen muscles that support your cervical spine, without moving your head. Isometric exercises are performed with your head in one position, without moving. For each exercise, hold for up to 10 seconds; then relax. Repeat three times, as recommended by the North American Spine Society.
Move 1: Isometric Flexion
- Sit up tall and place your palm on your forehead.
- Push against your forehead while tightening your neck muscles to keep your head from moving.
Move 2: Isometric Extension
- Place your hand on the back of your head and gently press your head forward.
- Tighten your muscles to meet the resistance.
Move 3: Isometric Lateral Flexion/Side Bending
- Place your right hand above your right ear.
- Tighten the muscles on the right side of your neck as if you are trying to bring your ear to your shoulder.
- Meet the resistance with your hand.
- Repeat on the left.
Move 4: Isometric Rotation
- Place your palm on your right cheek.
- Tighten your neck muscles as if you are trying to turn your head to look over your right shoulder.
- Meet the resistance with your hand.
- Repeat on the left.
Fix Your Posture
An important part of treatment for C7 impingement is correcting your posture. The forward head, rounded shoulders position that many people assume as they sit throughout the day closes down the space between the vertebrae where spinal nerves exit. This can compress the nerve.
Move 1: Corner Stretch
The forward head, rounded shoulders posture causes muscles across the chest and front of the shoulders to tighten. The corner stretch improves flexibility in these muscles.
- Stand with your feet staggered, facing a corner.
- Place one forearm on each wall, with your elbows at shoulder height.
- Slowly shift your weight over your front leg until you feel a stretch across your chest and the front of your shoulders.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds; then relax. Repeat three times.
- Perform this stretch with your elbows slightly higher than shoulder height, then slightly below shoulder height to target different parts of these muscles.
Move 2: Scapular Squeezes
This exercise strengthens muscles that pull your shoulders back and help keep your back straight, as demonstrated by UC Berkeley University Health Services.
- Sit up tall on a firm surface with your hands resting on your thighs.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down, as if you are trying to tuck them into your back pockets.
- Hold for three to five seconds; then relax. Repeat 10 times.
Move 3: Banded Rows
Use a resistance band to strengthen postural muscles.
- Attach the middle of the band to a firm object, such as a doorknob, around waist height.
- Hold one end of the band in each hand, and bend your elbow to 90 degrees.
- Take a few steps backward until there is tension on the band.
- Pull your elbows straight back while squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for two to three seconds,;then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.
C7 Cervical Radiculopathy Exercises
After the C7 nerve root leaves the spine, it branches off to supply muscles along the arm. If nerve compression is present for a significant amount of time, you might have weakness in these muscles. The C7 nerve root mainly powers muscles that straighten your elbow, according to Physiopedia. Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise, working up to three sets.
Move 1: Banded Triceps Extension
- Attach one end of the resistance band overhead.
- Hold the opposite end of the band in your hand on the affected arm.
- Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and bring it next to your side.
- Keeping your elbow tight by your side, straighten your elbow against the resistance of the band.
- Hold for two to three seconds; then slowly allow it to rise back up to the starting position.
Move 2: Push-Ups
Push-ups are an effective strengthening exercise for your elbow extensors — particularly if you keep your elbows close to your sides.
- Begin in a plank position, with your body weight supported on your hands and the balls of your feet.
- Position your elbows next to your body.
- Lower your body down as far as possible, or until your chest lightly touches the floor.
- Press back up to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times.
If this exercise is too hard, perform it on your knees rather than your toes.