Exercises for Neck Pain Radiating Down Back of Arm

Man with neck pain
A close up of a man with neck pain (Image: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images)

If you are experiencing a condition known as cervical radiculopathy, or neck pain with pain radiating down the arm, consult with your physician or physical therapist regarding an exercise program that might rectify your problem. According to Woodburne’s "Essentials of Human Anatomy," the problem stems from a nerve injury at the base of the neck, involving the seventh and eighth cervical nerve roots.

Neck Retraction Sitting

When your inflammation has subsided, and with your physician’s approval, you can proceed with neck exercises. Physical therapist Robin McKenzie has designed neck extension exercises to mitigate this pain, usually experienced as headaches at the base and back of the head with radiating pain down the back of the arm. He advocates rhythmic neck retraction while sitting. Place your fingertips on your chin and retract or pull back your head. You must keep it level, pretending as if you are moving your head backward along a track. Perform this motion 15 to 20 times, three times daily. This exercise helps restore your proper neck posture. You must then learn to maintain this posture.

Neck Extension While Backlying

You can also perform this exercise while lying on your back. If your head is fixed in a forward position, place your head on one to two pillows and retract your head as one unit. Your movement should be in a downward direction toward the surface. Avoid head nodding. Repeat 15 times. Progress this exercise by increasing the degree of neck extension or straightening occurring at the base of your neck. Remove the pillows under your head and lie with your head off the bed’s edge. Hold a towel folded lengthwise in both hands, using it to support your head. Let your head drop, as a unit again, toward the floor. Hold this position for three to five seconds and repeat 15 times.

Postural Correction Exercises

Correcting your neck posture also means stretching muscles that bring your shoulders and neck forward. Stand in a doorway and place your arms on the doorjambs at shoulder level. Lean forward into the open doorway, stretching the top of your chest. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, three times. You can also squeeze your shoulder blades together for five seconds, 10 times. Another exercise is to raise your arms to shoulder level with elbows bent to 90 degrees and pull your arms backward 10 times.

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