Setting your neck straight

We put a lot of impact on our joints over the years. Eventually they start to show the signs of wear and tear. With age, arthritis can cause the joints in our knees, hands, wrists, and feet to become stiff and sore.

Arthritis also affects the vertebrae in our neck, which get worn down from years of supporting our head. After age 60, more than 85 percent of people have arthritis in their neck, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

If your neck is sore, see a doctor to find out exactly what’s causing your pain. You can visit your family doctor or see a specialist like an orthopedist, rheumatologist, or osteopathic doctor. Your doctor can also advise you on therapies to help relieve the pain such as postural changes, physical therapy, yoga, or Pilates. And your doctor may recommend pain relieving medication or steroid injections.

You can also try basic exercises at home. Though you might be tempted to keep your neck still when it hurts, staying immobile will only increase the stiffness. It will also cause you to lose even more movement. Stretching and strengthening exercises will help keep your neck limber and reduce your arthritis pain.

Here are a few exercises you can try for relieving neck arthritis. Remember to move gently and smoothly through each exercise. Never make any sudden movements or jerk your neck. Twisting and turning your neck is done in the neck rotation exercise. Also, stop if any exercise increases your neck pain.

Neck drop and raise

This stretch works both the front and back of your neck to increase flexibility and movement.

Stand up straight, or sit in a chair. Slowly drop your head forward until your chin touches your chest.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Then return to your starting position.

Next, lean your head slightly back and hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds.

Repeat the stretch in each direction five times.

Head tilt

This opposing motion works the sides of your neck.

Stand up straight or sit in a chair. Slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder while keeping your left shoulder down.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then return your head to center.

Repeat on the left side by tilting your head toward your left shoulder and holding your right shoulder down.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds.

Repeat the whole sequence five times.

Neck rotation

Here is another good exercise for the sides of your neck.

Sit in a chair, or stand up with good posture. Slowly turn your head to the right, keeping your chin straight.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, then return to center.

Slowly turn your head to the left and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Then return to center.

Repeat five times on each side.

Neck retraction

You should feel this stretch in the back of your neck.

Sit in a chair with your shoulders back and your head straight. Pull your chin straight in, like you are making a double chin.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds while feeling the stretch in your neck.

Return to your original position. Then repeat five times.

Shoulder rolls

While you focus on your neck, don’t neglect your shoulders. Exercising your shoulders will also strengthen the muscles that support your neck.

Shoulder rolls are a basic, easy exercise to keep your shoulder and neck joints fluid.

Sit in a chair or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Roll your shoulders up, back, and down in one smooth motion.

Repeat this movement five times. Then reverse the motion, rolling your shoulders up, forward, and down five times.

Reps for necks

At first, you may only be able to do one or two repetitions of each exercise. As you get used to the movements, you should be able to increase the number of reps.

You might feel a little discomfort when you first try a new exercise, but you should never feel pain. If any movement hurts, stop and check with your doctor.

Repeat these exercises every day for six to eight weeks. If your pain doesn’t let up, it gets worse, or you have any weakness in your arms or hands, call your doctor for advice.