Exercises for the Upper Back & Neck After C5 and C6 Fusion Surgery

Carefully working the muscles in your neck and upper back can help speed your recovery after a cervical fusion.
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A cervical fusion at the C5 to C6 level is a significant surgery that permanently alters the movement in your neck. Despite this, individuals who undergo this procedure are not precluded from strengthening the muscles in their neck and upper back.


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Exercising these muscle groups can help improve posture and decrease the strain on the other cervical levels. Many different exercises can be safely done after this type of surgery.

Isometrics are a great way to initiate strengthening the muscles of the neck.
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Cervical Isometrics

Isometrics are a gentle way to strengthen the muscles in your neck without moving your spine.


How To: Place two fingers near your left temple. Then, attempt to turn your head to the left but resist the motion with your fingers. Hold this for 5 to 10 seconds and then relax. After a full set, repeat the exercise on the right side. Begin by pushing with 10 to 20 percent of your effort and gradually increase the intensity as the holds become easier. You can also modify this exercise by side-bending your neck instead of rotating it.

Read More: Isometric Exercises for Scapular Muscles


Prone Extension

The exercise works the lower trapezius muscle, which helps depress the shoulder blades and improve your posture.

How To: Lie on your stomach with your arms extended and your palms down. Begin by bringing your shoulder blades down and back. Then, lift both arms in the air and slowly back down again without relaxing your shoulder blades. As this becomes easy, a 1- to 2-pound weight can be added to increase the challenge.



Rows use a resistance band to activate the rhomboids, a muscle that helps to retract the shoulders.

How To: Secure a resistance band around a pole or on the inside knob of a closed door. Hold one end of the band in each hand and pull backwards. As you do this, squeeze your shoulder blades together without shrugging your shoulders. After a 1- to 2-second hold, release the tension.


Prone Horizontal Abduction

The middle trapezius, which helps prevent rounded shoulder posture, is targeted in this exercise.

How To: Lie on your stomach with your arms extended out to the side like you are flying. Begin by bringing your shoulder blades down and back. Then, with your palms down, lift your arms in the air and hold them there for 1 to 2 seconds before returning to the starting position. Hold on to a light weight in each hand if this exercise becomes too easy.


Read More: Scapular Retraction Exercises for Posture


Press-ups are another great technique for activating the lower trapezius muscle.

How To: Sit in a chair with arms and put both feet flat on the ground. Use your arms to press up and out of the chair until your elbows are straight. Initially, you can assist with your legs if needed. Then, slowly lower yourself back down again. Try to keep your neck relaxed as you do this.


Resistance bands are a convenient way to strengthen the shoulder blade muscles in the upper back.
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Resisted Shoulder Extension

This exercise targets multiple muscles that help improve posture and decrease the strain on your neck.


How To: With your arms at your side and your elbows extended, hold one end of a secured resistance band in each hand. Bring your arms slowly backwards without bending your elbows. As you do this, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back. Hold this position for 1 to 2 seconds and then relax.


To effectively strengthen these muscle groups, do two to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. This routine can be done two to three times weekly. It's important to check with your surgeon prior to beginning these exercises, especially if you have had surgery recently. In addition, any exercise that causes increased pain should be stopped immediately.



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