Cervical dystonia and exercise

There's a lot on the net about exercise in general and for those with cervical dystonia in particular. Here is an extract from this site... 

Considerations for ST Exercisers

What kind of exercise do you need? It’s important that you work on all the systems that keep your body working well. Your heart and circulation require aerobic exercise to stay healthy. That means walking, swimming, cycling, elliptical machines or exercise classes that keep your heart rate in its target zone. At least three times a week for 30-40 minutes. Your muscles need to stay strong. That means strengthening by weight training, doing exercises that use your body weight as resistance e.g. a ball class, Pilates, Yoga or taking a class that uses a selection of these activities. The evidence for improving strength and decreasing neck pain is well documented (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). Stretching will help to lengthen the muscles that ST shortens, but it will also keep your whole body moving well and allow you to bend and reach and get up and down from the floor. You can do this with specific stretching, or take a class.

We all know we should exercise but that doesn’t mean we like it! ST’rs have their own sets of issues, including pain, which can make it difficult to exercise successfully. I would like to suggest some principles that might make it easier for you to get started and then continue to exercise.
  1. Time of day: Think about your body. When are your ST Symptoms at their worst? What works best for your schedule? Most of the ST’rs I have worked with are at their best in the morning, before they have had to fight gravity for the day. If you can make this work for your schedule this is probably the best time of day to exercise.
  2. “Neuro Tricks”: It’s important to understand that your neck is a major intersection for information going to your brain and vice versa.
    There are reflexes associated with your neck that will bring your head into a normal upright position to maintain vision straight ahead (optical righting reflex) and bring your body into a normal position in space and relation to the ground (Labyrinthine or righting reflexes). These reflexes tie into your neck muscles to change your head and neck positions. Body position will also affect your ST. Lying on your back (supine) promotes flexion for your whole body. Lying on your stomach (prone) facilitates extension. Remember these ideas, they can help you.
Why do my symptoms get worse with bouncing or resistive exercise?
Your brain will always try to maintain your head position to help you look straight ahead. The brain also wants you to see clearly when you move. When you bounce, the brain increases the tone in the neck muscles to help support your head against gravity. When you lift weights in an upright position as your shoulders fatigue, you will recruit the muscles in your neck to help you which may increase the tightness in your neck. How do you overcome this? I think smooth rhythmic activities are the way to go. We know that the neurological system responds well to smooth rhythmic exercise. They are "calming" to the nervous system and less likely to fire up muscular tone e.g. swimming, yoga, Tai C'hi, walking, Nia, and Pilates (especially equipment work)

Remember to go here to read the full article...

I remember once hearing about someone who was so into exercise, in particuylar neck exercises, that he was able to counter the sideways movement of ST on a permanent basis because his bneck had become so strong. Thus he used very little effort to maintain a forward looking gaze.

Remember also that exercise improves your inner and outer health and also self-esteem - something that dystonia reduces.

and also...

1 comment:

  1. So if I get super-fit (I wish!) maybe my dystonia will go...an interesting idea. Currently I do yoga which helps a lot and go swimming twice a week. The water puts enough pressure on my neck to allow me to float.

    Maybe I should go to the gym!