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Physical Therapy Exercises for Cervical Stenosis

author image James Patterson
James Patterson specializes in health and wellness topics, having written and produced material for the National Institutes of Health, the President's Cancer Panel and an Inc. 500 Hall of Fame company. He is also a former sportswriter with writing experience in basketball, baseball, softball, golf and other popular sports.
Physical Therapy Exercises for Cervical Stenosis
Neck stretching and strengthening exercises may help relieve your cervical stenosis symptoms. Photo Credit: dima_sidelnikov/iStock/Getty Images

Stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal narrows, causing pressure and pinching upon the spinal cord. Cervical stenosis is when the condition happens in the neck, or the cervical spine. Certain exercises can help strengthen and stabilize your neck, leading to reduced symptoms and the ability to carry on with your normal activities free from pain and discomfort.

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Cervical stenosis exercises involve stretching the bones in the cervical spine as well as stretching and strengthening the muscles in the neck to provide support and stability to the spine. Most exercises are convenient and easy enough that you can do them in most casual settings, such as in your office chair or on the couch at home.

Scaleni Stretch

The scalene stretch helps improve range of motion in your neck and stretch out your neck muscles and tendons. To do this stretch, sit upright in a chair with your back straight and your eyes looking forward. Tuck your chin down slightly toward your chest. Bend your head to the left. You should feel a stretch in the right side of your neck. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then rest. Repeat the exercise, this time bending your head to the right to stretch the left side of your neck. Repeat three to four times for each side of your neck.

Axial Extension

To perform the axial extension exercise, lie on the floor on your back. Position your head so you’re looking straight up at the ceiling. Take a deep breath and tuck your chin down toward your chest. At the same time, push your neck down against the ground. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat two to three more times as part of your exercise routine. You can also perform this exercise standing up by holding a wooden rod behind your neck and shoulders and pressing your neck backwards so the back of your head protrudes beyond the rod.

Shoulder Shrugs

This exercise is effective for building up the muscles in the upper back and neck which support your spine. Begin by standing or sitting with your back straight and your hands to your sides. Slowly lift your shoulders as high as they will go, then hold them in that position for one second. Let your shoulders back down and repeat the same process 10 to 15 times as part of your exercise.


Cervical stenosis exercises are designed to help improve your range of motion, but you may feel slight pain as you rotate your neck in certain directions. Focus on moving your neck in the directions where you don’t feel pain until your neck has loosened up enough to try other directions. If you feel significant pain, talk to your doctor about exercises or other treatments.

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