Exercises for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Look better, feel better, function better, be healthier, and improve your sleep with these simple exercises to improve obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when a person develops partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, when this obstruction results in apnea (no breathing for at least ten seconds) or hypopnea (decreased breathing). The person with OSA will then partially or fully wake up and their blood oxygen will decrease. About 25% of Americans have OSA, with men, older adults, and the obese at greater risk. OSA increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, coronary heart disease, stroke, trauma from falling asleep (while driving, for example), and death. It is a big health problem in the United States, and increasingly, the world. OSA is usually treated with medications, positive airway pressure (like CPAP), and surgery.[1] OSA is worse with supine sleeping (sleeping on your back). Some patients control their symptoms with side sleeping (sometimes with a full-length body pillow). However, there are many exercises that can help decrease symptoms of OSA, improve function, and make you look and feel better.[2]

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Seven Secrets of Health: #3 – Maximal Musculoskeletal

How to optimize the health of your muscles, bones, and joints. 

A man in his 70s came to the Nirschl Sports Medicine Center in Virginia. His chief complaint was mild weakness in his golf swing for several months, but no pain or other functional limitation. His exam was unremarkable except for asymmetric weakness in the right shoulder. We ordered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate possible surgical options.

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Seven Secrets of Health: #2 – Keep Life in Balance

A life in balance is the healthiest life, but what does balance mean, and how can you attain it?

In the movie Karate Kid, the martial arts master Mr. Miyagi tells his student Daniel “Got to learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good.”  It cannot be denied that in athletics and in all of health and fitness, balance is a fundamental goal. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines balance as “a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equality in amount, weight, value, or importance, as between two things or the parts of a thing: mental, emotional, or bodily stability.”

I have many patients who want to hear directly from their doctor on health and fitness topics, and so I dedicate these articles to you. Thank you for letting me partner in taking care of you. In this article we will focus on balance as it relates to health and fitness.

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Exercises to address common musculoskeletal problems

Our minister of music was having a lot of pain in his legs and back during a mission trip. I told him that exercise can reduce pain, improve range of motion, and increase musculoskeletal function. Then I told him how. 

Types of range of motion exercises
1. Passive – force for moving the joint comes from outside the joint (another person, another part of the body)
2. Active assisted – part of the force for moving the joint comes from the affected joint, and the rest comes from outside.
3. Active – force for moving the joint comes from the muscles surrounding the joint

Ankle –


Achilles tendon
1. Stand on ball of feet on step
2. Lower yourself, stretching Achilles tendons
3. Do it with one or two feet


Ankle/Posterior tibialis –
1. Draw the alphabet with your toes
2. Draw the alphabet with your toes while you have a towel or physical therapy band around foot and held in hands or tied to table legs or other fixed spot.
3. Increase the resistance of the bands.
4. Hold each move in making the letter for several seconds.


Knee/Quadriceps –
Vastus medialis – terminal knee extension, especially during lunges


Common extensor tendon (lateral epicondylitis – golfer’s elbow)
1. Extend wrist on affected side
2. Slowly and forcibly flex wrist with opposite hand
3. This stretches painful common extensor tendon and eccentrically stresses muscles

Common flexor tendon (medial epicondylitis – tennis elbow)
1. Flex wrist on affected side
2. Slowly and forcibly extend wrist with opposite hand
3. This stretches painful common flexor tendon and eccentrically stresses muscles

Strengthening – hold weights in hands and do full range of motion (flexion, extension, radial  and ulnar deviation). Increase weights and duration over time.


1. The Rod – Hold a rod in the unaffected hand and grasp the rod with the hand of the affected shoulder. Move the rod with the good hand through the entire range of motion of the good shoulder. This will force the affected shoulder through its full range of motion passively.

2 Wall walking – place fingertips of the affected arm against wall. Begin walking with fingers up the wall as far as pain and range of motion allow. Do this facing the wall and again with shoulder perpendicular to it until you achieve full and pain free range of motion.


Supraspinatus –
1.  Pendant external rotation – sitting or standing, against resistance (early static, later with movement)
2. External rotation while lying prone or on side against resistance
3. Prone shoulder extension at 90 degrees abduction

Scapular stabilizers
1. Prone row with scapular pinch (try to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades)
2. Chair press ups – Lift yourself up out of a chair by pressing on the arm rests and lifting.
3. Latissimus pull downs
4. Shoulder shrugs
5. Seated row with scapular pinch