What type of exercise will lower my risk for degenerative spinal diseases?

Luke Macyszyn, MD
There are no specific exercises that one can perform to avoid degenerative spinal disease. However, regular exercise, including muscle strengthening and flexibility training, reduces injury and back pain as people age.
Focus on exercises that help to strengthen the muscles and ligaments supporting the spinal column. These “core” muscles include back, abdominal, gluteal and hip muscles. By strengthening these muscles one can provide better support to the spine, off-load the stress on small joints and slow down the degenerative changes. Maintaining healthy weight and participating in regular exercises is very important as well. It is advisable to see a spine specialist to develop an individualized exercise program and learn proper technique before starting the exercises.

In addition to core strengthening and stability exercises which will help support the spine to keep it in it's nutral biomechanically correct position. 

Flexibility exercises that help lengthen tight muscles especially those in the chest, shoulders, sides of the neck and upper trapezius (muscle on  either sie of neck between shoulders) are also recommended because they will improve forward head and rounded shoulder (upper cross syndrome) posture which puts excessive stress on the discs between the vertebrae in the cervical spine ultimately resulting in premature disc degeneration. 

Some great neck pain reducing tips and chest and neck stretching exercises can be found here:


An active, healthy lifestyle is good for your body, and exercise can help prevent future back pain. However, some high-impact aerobic activities like jogging or tennis can hurt the spine and make existing damage worse. Core exercises are the best exercises to lower your risk for degenerative spinal diseases. Strengthening your core muscles will help improve balance and stability and support the lower spine. Light cardiovascular activities like walking, riding a stationary bike, and swimming will improve blood flow, promote healing, and lower your risk for degenerative spinal diseases. Be sure to warm up and stretch before any exercise, and talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.