Neck Strength Training: How It Can Help

The cervical spine, located in the neck, is subject to many of the same problems that plague the lower back — muscle strains and spasms, disk degeneration and denervation, and spinal stenosis. About 10 to 15 percent of people experience neck pain at any given time. Most neck pain is short lived and gets better on its own or with simple self-care measures. But sometimes neck pain is a red flag for a more serious problem.

Now a study reported in Health and Quality of Life Outcomes (Volume 8, page 48) suggests that strength training may help to improve the quality of life in women suffering with persistent neck pain.

Researchers randomly assigned 180 women with chronic neck pain to take part in either a strength-training program three times a week for one year, an endurance-training program three times a week for one year, or a single session on neck stretching exercises.

Women in the strength-training group performed high-intensity isometric neck strengthening exercises with an elastic band. The endurance-training group performed lighter dynamic neck muscle training.

At one year, women in both exercise groups reported significantly better quality of life compared with baseline. Women in the strength-training group had the greatest improvement. Women in the neck-stretching group had slightly lower scores at the end of the study.

Bottom line advice: These findings suggest that regularly performing neck exercises may help improve quality of life for chronic neck pain sufferers. If no treatable cause of your neck pain has been identified, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist, who can design an appropriate program.

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