Exercises and Physiotherapy for Arnold-Chiari

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari malformation, proper exercise and physiotherapy is the key to leading a healthy and pain-free life. People with this malformation spend a lifetime dealing with severe headaches, due to the brain pushing down through the lower part of the skull into the vertebral column. However, before you start exercising, it is important to get approval from your doctor or physiotherapist. The right exercise can ease stress on the neck. Usually, physiotherapy and exercise are decided based on the symptoms and the extent of the malformation.


One of the best exercises for Arnold-Chiari is walking. However, it is imperative that you wear shoes that are designed for walking and running. Thanks to the cushioning, these types of shoes ease the stress and jerks on the neck and cerebellum while walking.

Brandt-Daroff Exercise

For many people diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari, maintaining body balance is a major issue. Such patients are often recommended Brandt-Daroff exercise to improve their symptoms. These exercises can be easily learnt with the help of a physiotherapist. The exercise is very simple. Just sit on the bed, with your feet on the floor. Now, stretch out on the bed and turn to your right. Thereafter, turn your head at an angle of 45 degrees. At this point, you should be looking up at the ceiling of your room. Stay in this position till any feeling of dizziness goes away. Then, sit up (the starting position) and look straight for about 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise, but this time lie on the left side. Have a family member or friend around while doing this exercise, as there are chances you may fall off the bed due to dizziness or loss of balance.

Cervical Exercise

Usually, people with Arnold-Chiari tend to suffer from frequent headaches. Fortunately, such patients can get relief from headaches if they exercise while taking a shower. Allowing the jet of water to fall on the nape and shoulders can provide relief from the pain. While you are standing under the shower, try turning your head to look behind. It is imperative that you do not bend the neck downwards, or rotate the neck too much.

Other Tips

If your symptoms are bad, it is best to work with a qualified and licensed physiotherapist, who has the experience of working with patients diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari malformation. The physiotherapist will help you do the exercises correctly, without causing pain or further damage.

Patients should not participate in activities that put strain on the neck region. These include sports, such as tennis, basketball and soccer. Due to balance problems, there always is a risk of falling and getting injured. Therefore, Arnold-Chiari patients should be careful during physical activities that put them at a risk of falling and injuring themselves. Furthermore, such patients also should take care about the weight they carry. They should not lift more than 15 pounds. And, if patients suffer from syrinx, they must avoid lifting heavy things altogether.

Bottom Line

While exercising and physiotherapy can help patients with Arnold-Chiari, care should be taken not to exacerbate the symptoms. If patients experience dizziness, nausea, pain or headache while exercising, they should stop at once. And, on days when the symptoms are severe, avoid any form of exercise is recommended.