Exercises to Strengthen the Neck With Disk Degeneration Disease

Cervical degenerative disk disease occurs when the gelatin-like center of the vertebral disk becomes compressed or worn down. Over time, this condition causes the disk space to narrow and often results in added stress to the joints of the spine. When the cervical disk protrudes, it applies pressure on the nerves. This pressure can result in pain and tingling in the neck, arms and hands. To help relieve pain and improve neck strength, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends a therapeutic exercise program.

Dorsal Slide

Sit in a straight-backed chair with feet on the floor. Tuck your chin in toward your neck. In this position gently glide your head backward over your body. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then relax. Repeat 10 times. This exercise helps to stretch the back of the neck.

Shoulder Lifts

To start, lie face down on the floor with your arms at your sides. Lift your head and shoulders up, while keeping your hips pressed against the floor. During this movement, keep your eyes focused on the floor. This exercise helps treat tightness in the shoulders and lower neck area. Perform 10 repetitions.

Head Rotation

Start by lying on your back. Apply pressure with your hands against your head by pushing your head side to side, forward and backward. Hold each position for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. This rotational movement helps to increase flexibility and strengthen your neck.

Corner Stretch

Physical therapist Gavin Morrison of Spinehealth.com recommends this exercise to assist in stretching the chest and shoulder muscles. When these muscles are tight, they can contribute to neck pain associated with degenerative disk disease. Stand in the corner of a room. With feet together, face toward the corner and rest both forearms on each wall. In this position, gently lean toward the wall. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulders. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Foam Roll Exercise

To do this exercise, you will need a six-inch diameter foam roll. According to Morrison, exercising with pressure applied from the foam roll can assist in relieving trigger point pain, which is often associated with neck problems. Place the foam roll on the ground and lie on it lengthwise. Place both hands on your hips and slowly roll from side to side. The foam roll should roll beneath your neck and scapular muscles. Roll 20 times to both sides.

Dumbbell Shrug

According to Harvard Medical school, this resistance exercise can help strengthen the neck and assist in breaking the neck pain cycle. To perform this exercise, stand upright with feet shoulder width apart. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and simultaneously shrug your shoulders upward. Do this movement slowly and pause for three seconds before relaxing your shoulders. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.


According to MayoClinic.com, when a patient suffers from cervical degenerative disk disease, exercises and stretching can lessen pain and help to restore mobility. Exercise also plays a vital role in injury management and prevention; but to prevent additional damage, it is necessary to be cleared by your doctor before starting an exercise program.

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