I've been trying to do an exercise program to relax but also strengthen the muscles in my neck and shoulders. My biggest problem is that I can't hold heavy weights in my hands. I have a touch of arthritis there. What do you suggest?
There's a wide range of exercises and activities that can help maintain and/or improve strength in the shoulders. Some require lighter weights than others while still providing a positive benefit.
For example, shoulder shrugs (lifting the shoulders up towards the ears) can be replaced with lateral raises (raising arms from next to the body out to the side). The amount of weight needed to activate the trapezius muscle (neck and shoulder muscle) is less for lateral raises compared to shoulder shrugs. And you still get the benefit needed.
Another option is to use wrist weights instead of handheld weights. These can be purchased at a sporting goods store or on-line. It's also possible to make some simple velcro strap-on wrist weights.
For those who have a membership in a health club or fitness center with a pool, pool therapy can be an excellent alternative to traditional strength-training exercises. The buoyancy of the water supports your weight while also offering resistance during movement. Many people find this a relaxing way to strengthen and tone muscles.
Lars L. Andersen, MSc, et al. Muscle Activation During Selected Strength Exercises in Women With Chronic Neck Muscle Pain. In Physical Therapy. June 2008. Vol. 88. No. 6. Pp. 703-711.
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