Active Care Rehab

Cervical Disc and Neck Pain

This week we are going to discuss the cervical (neck) disc herniations. The cervical spine or neck consists of seven vertebrae and five disc which allow the spine to be flexible.

When the discs (much like the Lumbar Spine) become irritated they can begin to migrate posterior or backwards and cause pain. When the disc migrates it can become a bulge or herniation.

A herniated disc usually is caused by wear and tear of the disc. Today, we speed this process up due to postures such as rolled shoulders and forward head posture. These positions place a large load on the lower neck and place the disc under increased pressure.  Herniated discs are much more common in people who smoke, Cervical or Lumbar.

Herniated discs in the neck can cause pain, numbness, or weakness in the neck, shoulders, chest, arms, and hands. Early signs are pain in the neck, shoulder and shoulder blade. It is often described as sharp, deep pain that massage can not get to. On the other hand, many people experience no symptoms from a herniated disk. Most people who have a herniated disk don’t need surgery to correct the problem. According to Mayo Clinic, 90% of disc injuries resolve with conservative treatment.

Conservative Treatment for cervical disc injury or irritation consists of a combination of corrective exercise, posture restoration, and myofascial release. Releasing the tissues in the neck with Active Release or Graston can take strain off of the disc and allow the rehab exercises to be more effective. Since a disc injury involves inflammation, anti-inflammatory nutrition may help reduce the pain while undergoing treatment. Cervical Neck Traction and Treat Your Own Neck 5th Ed (803-5) can be helpful as well.

Classic Seated Posture
Classic Seated Posture

Forward head posture (FHP) has almost become the norm in society today. This occurs when sitting with poor posture for long periods of time. FHP leads to a reduction in the normal curve of the neck and muscle imbalance. When these changes occur the posture is visible when standing or walking as well.

When the normal curve of the neck straightens, the upper back compensates by rounding and becoming stiff. This places increased stress and load on the lower cervical spine. The disc and ligaments can become overworked and leads to pain. Increased stress on these ligaments and disc can start to weaken their collagen fibers and allow the posterior or backwards migration of the disc material.

When the head protrudes forward the muscles in the back of the neck become tight and when this condition is chronic scar tissue can develop. The muscles in the front become stretched and start to weaken. This is why most individuals with FHP can not touch their chin to their chest. So if you are dealing with disc-like symptoms or FHP the exercises here may be beneficial to you.

Yours in health,

Dr. Justin Hildebrand