What is Degenerative arthritis?
Degenerative arthritis in the spine is also called osteoarthritis (OA) or spondylosis. It is often caused by the wear-and-tear breakdown of the body’s joint surfaces and cartilage. While OA can occur in any joint of the body, it is more commonly centered in the cervical and lumbar spine, caused by excessive stress and improper motions in the joint. People who suffer from degenerative arthritis in the spine typically have back or neck pains, have a very limited range of motions, experience feelings of numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, and overall muscle weakness. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no cure for degenerative arthritis in the spine. However, doing exercises on a regular basis can improve flexibility in the area and make possible a wider range of motion by strengthening muscles that have become weak over time. Believe it or not, one can develop because of physical inactivity. The body and its joints are designed to move and when we are inactive, our joints begin to breakdown. We can prevent this condition from happening by increasing the range of motion in the neck and lower back by performing gentle and slow stretches in all of the ranges of motion.
What kind of Exercises can you do?
There are a number of simple exercises that people who suffer from degenerative arthritis in the spine can do to remedy the condition and alleviate the attendant pain. One of them is the cat/camel exercise, which is a full spine exercise that stretches, strengthens and opens up the muscles, enabling the fixated joints to regain their range of movements. To do this exercise, you begin from a kneeling position with your knees tucked in underneath and your hands held out flat on the floor in front of you. Then arch your lower and middle back upward while at the same time contracting your stomach muscles up and inward while dropping your head toward the floor between your outstretched arms. Next, reverse this pose by relaxing your stomach muscles and dropping them toward the floor, swaying your back and raising your head to look up toward the ceiling. Hold each of these positions for five seconds and do 15 repetitions in the morning and at night. It will help you make the pose if you remember a cat flexing its own muscles or the shape of a camel’s humped back.
You can also do head rolls which can be done from a sitting or a standing position. Begin by bending your head as far as you can to the right like you are reaching for your right shoulder. Make sure you do not raise your shoulder to meet your head. Slowly move your head back towards tour left in a rolling motion until you reach the same position but towards your left shoulder. Hold the right/left pose for 15 – 20 second each time while holding you back straight.
Leg maneuvers can increase your flexibility. To do this, stretch your lower back area by lying on your back on the floor or any flat hard surface. Extend your legs until they are parallel to the floor. Extend your arms outward in a “T” position with your palms flat on the floor. Slowly bend your knees until the soles of your feet are flat on the surface. Keeping your knees together, gently and slowly move your legs in unison to your right side as far as possible. Hold this position 10 seconds. Feel the stretch in your lower back area. Slowly return your legs to the original position. Relax 10 seconds. Slowly move your legs together to the left side this time. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Repeat the rotation five times for each side, keeping your arms and shoulders in continuous contact with the floor surface while performing this exercise.
When doing any of these exercises, remember to start out slowly, only gradually increase your intensity, and exercise duration to prevent injury. It is always prudent to check with your doctor before starting out on a new exercise program.