I suffer from cervical spondylosis. I joined a small gym, doing cardio and weights, but after a couple of months my neck pain worsened and I started getting pins and needles in my arm and leg. Since I stopped the gym my pain is less but I am putting on weight and feel lethargic. Can you advise?
Your spondylosis (a kind of neck arthritis) is a common condition of ageing, the result of degeneration and abnormal bony growth on the neck vertebrae. Because the spinal cord is closely packed at the neck, it is easy for nerves to get irritated, causing symptoms such as the pins and needles.
Anyone with a health condition or disability needs to be very choosy about their gym membership. Although things are changing, gyms are still mainly set up for “healthy” people who want to get fit, rather than people with medical conditions. Indeed, everyone who joins any gym should be asked to fill in a health questionnaire, and to get GP clearance for any conditions you declare.
This is not just a formality. Basic training for gym instructors does not cover medical conditions, so these staff are not competent to advise you on your gym programme.
Follow this advice before you sign up with any gym:
- Ask if any instructors are qualified in “exercise referrals” or “gym for disabled people”
- Ask whether the suitably qualified instructor will be available to carry out your induction and set up your training programme, and then check your progress and change your programme every couple of months
If the gym cannot guarantee this, try elsewhere.
You could take a different approach, though. For instance:
- hire a suitably qualified personal trainer (they still need the same certificates mentioned above) to work with you at home. As this is more expensive, you might only be able to afford them for three months, but they could set a home-exercise maintenance programme, and then you would pay them for a couple of updating sessions every three months thereafter
- seek out a “therapeutic pilates” studio where you can get one-to-one analysis and exercise instruction, preferably by a pilates-trained physio or advanced exercise trainer. Again, this is expensive, but the very specific strengthening work you do and the follow-up advice should enable you to return to a gym or home exercise routine, confident you are not going to worsen your pain.
Try to continue cardiovascular training, whether at the gym or at home. A stationary bike with a backrest may work best, or try treadmill walking (start gently and build up) – or a mini-trampoline (rebounder), which can be an excellent home cardio alternative.
Keep away from weight training until you have had specific instruction in strengthening your neck muscles, alongside mobility and stretch work for your neck, shoulders and mid-spine. If correctly targeted, this may help relieve your day-to-day pain. You should also target abdominals and low-back work to help your overall posture against the combined effects of your desk job and neck condition.