This is Joe Tatta, Physical Therapist, helping you to move towards better health.
Today, I’m talking to you about the Cervical Spine. Here’s a mistake people make when it comes to treating their own cervical pain. A lot of people get tightness or the sensation of tightness on one side of their neck. If it’s just muscle tightness-let’s say you worked out and you’re a little bit sore-then it’s OK to stretch that side.
However, with the cervical spine, a lot of people have cervical impingement, or cervical disk herniation. With the cervical disc herniation it often causes the muscles on the same side to become very tense, tight and spasm. The tendency is to want to stretch them out. That’s incorrect, and let me tell you why. A disc herniation typically happens in two ways: posterior or posterior-lateral. The cervical spine also has what is called Complete Lateral Herniation.
If you have a herniation that’s lateral or posterior-lateral when you stretch away from the painful side what you are actually doing is opening up the vertebrate and causing that herniation to get worse. If you’re causing the herniation to get worse, then obviously your pain is going to increase. You’re not only going to have pain in your upper trapezius muscle, but you can also have that sensation of numbness, tingling, or pain, that goes down your arm. Most people get in their pinky or their ring finger.
With this type of injury you want to try to first get your spine into a neutral position. Once you’re in a neutral position you then want to stretch and move gently toward the side that is tight. Do this about 10 times. Gently, this way; repeat about ten times. Go back and forward, like that, about ten times.
Ensure your head doesn’t come forward; stay in a nice neutral posture. This exercise will help the disc material go back into place, and not be herniated any longer.
So again just to review, if you have a lateral herniation and you stretch away from the herniation it will get worse and make the pain worse in your neck and down your arm. What you want to do is stretch nice and easy toward that side, which will help put the disc material back in place and take your pain away. Of course, with any exercise, make sure you check with your doctor at physical therapy or your physician. Make sure you’re cleared, but give this try at home, let me know how you do.
Watch my short video (2:59) on Cervical Herniated Disc and Stretching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuF9572tf8I
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To your health,
Joe Tatta, DPT