Injury Rehab

Retrolisthesis Neck Exercises: Movements That Help and Exercises to Avoid

Retrolisthesis Neck Exercises: Movements That Help and Exercises to Avoid

If you’ve suffered from retrolisthesis, you’ll know just how painful this condition can be. Caused by a vertebra slipping backward onto the vertebra below it, retrolisthesis can cause brutal neck pain and discomfort. 

The good news is that the condition can be partially managed with medical treatments and exercises, but it’s essential to know which exercises are the right ones. In this article, we’ll discuss targeted retrolisthesis neck exercises that can safely help you find relief.

We’ll also explain which exercises should be avoided (and why) and give you some other tips for managing your neck pain. Ready to finally find some relief from your persistent retrolisthesis pain? Read on to discover the best retrolisthesis exercises! 

What is Retrolisthesis?

Retrolisthesis is a spinal condition where a vertebra slips backward in relation to the vertebra below it. This misalignment can occur in any part of the spine, but it is particularly problematic when it affects the cervical (neck) region. 

Retrolisthesis, especially in the cervical region, can cause significant discomfort and potential neurological issues. Let’s take a look at what causes this condition, the symptoms most patients experience, and how an official diagnosis is performed. 

Definition and Causes 

Retrolisthesis is characterized by the posterior displacement of a vertebra. Unlike anterolisthesis, where the vertebra slips forward, retrolisthesis involves a backward shift. This displacement can lead to a narrowing of the spinal canal and foramina, potentially compressing spinal nerves.

There are several different causes of retrolisthesis, including age-related wear and tear on the spinal discs can reduce their ability to cushion and support the vertebrae, leading to misalignment.

Injuries from accidents, falls, or sports activities can also displace vertebrae and result in retrolisthesis, and some people are born with spinal abnormalities that predispose them to vertebral displacement.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of retrolisthesis vary depending on the severity and location of the displacement. Common symptoms include:

  • Neck pain that may worsen with movement
  • Stiffness, reduced range of motion, and difficulty turning the head
  • Tingling, numbness, or weakness in the arms and hands due to nerve compression
  • Frequent headaches originating from the neck
  • Involuntary muscle spasms and contractions of the neck muscles

Diagnosing retrolisthesis involves a thorough medical evaluation, including a physical exam where a doctor assesses your range of motion, pain levels, and any neurological deficits. 

X-rays are usually used to confirm the presence and extent of vertebral displacement. MRI or CT scans may also be ordered to evaluate soft tissue involvement and the degree of nerve compression. 

Can Exercise Help?

So, can retrolisthesis neck exercises help relieve the painful symptoms of this condition? Yes - regular, targeted, gentle neck workouts at home can help reduce pain by improving blood flow to the affected area and promoting the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.

Also, stretching and range-of-motion exercises can help maintain and improve flexibility in the neck, preventing stiffness and enhancing overall movement. Exercise can also relieve stress and tension, which often makes retrolisthesis pain worse. 

Learning how to build neck muscles at home using bodyweight neck exercises or the best neck exercise equipment gives you stronger neck muscles, which can provide better support for the vertebrae, reducing the risk of further displacement and instability.

So, yes - retrolisthesis neck exercises can make a big difference, but the key is to learn the right retrolisthesis exercises for neck muscles, as not all neck exercises for mass or neck spasm exercises will help. Next, we’ll explore the exercises for retrolisthesis you should focus on. 

Safe, Effective Retrolisthesis Neck Exercises for Restoring Strength & Mobility While Relieving Pain

You can’t afford to take any risks when it comes to your neck health, so it’s essential to find safe, gentle retrolisthesis neck exercises. The retrolisthesis exercises for neck muscles we’ve included below target the cervical spine, offering both therapeutic benefits and pain relief. 

Cervical Flexion and Extension

Cervical flexion involves gently bending the neck forward, bringing the chin toward the chest. These exercises for retrolisthesis stretch the muscles at the back of the neck, helping to reduce stiffness and improve flexibility.

Cervical extension, on the other hand, involves gently tilting the head backward and looking up towards the ceiling. Neck extensions stretch the front neck muscles and improve the range of motion. 

For cervical flexion exercises, sit or stand with your back straight, then slowly lower your chin to your chest. Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat 5-10 times. 

For cervical extension exercises, sit or stand with your back straight, slowly tilt your head backward, and look up. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat 5-10 times. 

Side-to-Side Neck Tilts

Side-to-side neck tilts help stretch and strengthen the lateral neck muscles, enhancing flexibility and reducing tension. To perform these, sit or stand with your back straight, then slowly tilt your head toward your right shoulder, bringing your ear as close to the shoulder as possible without raising your shoulder.

Hold the position for 5-10 seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat on the left side. Perform the movement 5-10 times on each side. This is one of the most effective exercises for retrolisthesis for many different kinds of neck tension. 

Isometric Neck Contractions

Isometric neck exercises involve contracting the neck muscles without actual movement, strengthening the muscles and providing stability to the cervical spine. To get started, sit or stand with your back straight and place your right hand against the right side of your head. 

Push your head gently against your hand without moving your neck, hold the contraction for 5-10 seconds, then repeat on the left side, front, and back of the head, performing the movement 5-10 times in each direction. 

Chin Tucks

Chin tucks help to strengthen the deep neck flexors, improving posture and alleviating neck pain. Sit or stand with your back straight and gently pull your chin back to create a "double chin.” Keep your head level and don’t tilt up or down, and hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times. 

Shoulder Retraction

Shoulder retraction exercises strengthen the upper back and shoulder muscles, promoting better posture and reducing neck strain. If you’re wondering how to fix neck posture, this is a good place to start! 

Sit or stand with your back straight, then squeeze your shoulder blades together, bringing your shoulders back. Hold for 5-10 seconds, return to the original position, then repeat 5-10 times. 

Equipment to Invest in for Safer, More Seamless Neck Training

Learning how to train your neck and unlocking the benefits of these retrolisthesis exercises is much easier if you have the right equipment, like a neck trainer or neck harness. The Iron Neck is the #1 choice of neck training equipment for safe, effective, at-home use. 

With its amazing 4-in-1 benefits and unique, patented design, the Iron Neck is the fastest way to find safe relief from the pain of retrolisthesis. Ergonomically designed, you can use it to improve your posture, enhance your range of motion, reduce pain, and strengthen your neck muscles. 

The Iron Neck 3.0 Pro features a dynamic tension brake system that applies gentle resistance, allowing you to gradually (and safely) level up your neck workouts to see faster neck training before and after results. 

With the Iron Neck’s unique 360-degree isometric training, you can improve blood flow to all areas of your neck, making it the perfect device for holistic neck strengthening. Learn more about how to get a thicker neck with Iron Neck in our blog, including: 

Retrolisthesis Exercises to Avoid

While the above exercises can safely strengthen your neck and bring much-needed pain relief, there are also retrolisthesis exercises to avoid. Here are some of the exercises that won’t benefit your neck, and could actually worsen your pain and symptoms. 

High-Impact Exercises and Activities

High-impact exercises and activities involve movements that exert significant force on the spine, which can aggravate retrolisthesis by increasing the risk of vertebral displacement and spinal injury. Avoid running and jumping, contact sports, and heavy lifting. 

Overstretching and Hyperextension

Overstretching and hyperextension exercises can strain the ligaments and muscles supporting the cervical spine, leading to increased instability and pain. Avoid yoga poses or stretches that involve deep backbends, such as the wheel pose or bridge pose, which can hyperextend the neck and spine. 

Also, exercises that require extreme tilting or rotation of the neck beyond its natural range of motion should be avoided, as they can overstretch and strain neck muscles and ligaments. Intense stretching routines that push the neck beyond its comfortable range should also be avoided. 

Unsupported Neck Exercises

Unsupported neck exercises place undue pressure on the cervical spine, which can increase the risk of injury and exacerbate retrolisthesis symptoms. Exercises like neck bridges, where the neck supports the body’s weight, can place excessive stress on the cervical vertebrae and should be avoided.

Other retrolisthesis exercises to avoid are headstands and handstands, which require the neck to bear significant weight and can lead to compression and further displacement of the cervical vertebrae. Traditional sit-ups that involve jerking the head forward should also be avoided. 

More Tips on Managing Retrolisthesis Beyond Movement

As well as retrolisthesis neck exercises, there are other things you can do to help manage your pain and symptoms. Let’s take a look at some strategies you can incorporate into your routine to make retrolisthesis more manageable. 

Pain Management Strategies

Managing pain is the most important part of retrolisthesis. Over-the-counter pain relievers like 

ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation. For more severe pain, doctors may prescribe stronger medications or muscle relaxants. 

Applying ice packs can reduce inflammation and numb acute pain, while heat therapy with heating pads or warm baths can relax muscles and improve blood flow. A physical therapist can provide specialized pain relief techniques, such as manual therapy, ultrasound therapy, or electrical stimulation. 

Ergonomic Adjustments

Being ergonomically mindful can help prevent further strain on your neck and spine, reducing symptoms and supporting spinal health. Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level and your chair provides good lumbar support. 

Invest in an adjustable chair that supports a neutral spine position. Maintain good posture while sitting, standing, and walking by keeping your shoulders back, chin tucked, and avoiding slouching. 

Use a supportive pillow that keeps your neck aligned with your spine, and consider a mattress that offers adequate support without being too firm or too soft. Avoid cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, and use an earpiece or speakerphone to prevent neck strain.

Other Lifestyle Modifications

Other lifestyle modifications you can try eating more anti-inflammatory foods, like berries, avocados, green tea, olive oil, and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce strain on your spine, helping to manage your retrolisthesis. 

Final Thoughts on Retrolisthesis Exercises for Neck

Retrolisthesis can be a frustrating and debilitating condition to live with, but with the right exercises, you can manage and reduce the pain significantly. Hopefully, you can find some much-needed relief with the exercises we’ve described here!

The best way to safely exercise your neck, strengthen your neck muscles, and find relief from retrolisthesis is with the best neck harness for weight training - the Iron Neck. It’s the only device that improves blood flow to every muscle in your neck, helping you build strong, healthy neck muscles. 

Ready to leave the pain of retrolisthesis behind? Invest in your very own Iron Neck today and feel the difference!