Cervical Disc Herniation: Best Exercises For Your Sore Neck
Do you have a cervical disc herniation?
Does your cervical disc herniation cause pain in your neck that refers down to your shoulder or arm?
Are looking for the best exercises that can help your cervical disc herniation ?
In this issue of Bodi Empowerment I go over the causes of cervical disc herniations, what’s happening in your neck when you have a cervical disc herniation, symptoms for all the different cervical disc herniations, then I go over the exercises you need to help your neck get better.
Why Do I A Cervical Disc Herniation?
So how did you get this cervical disc herniation? Three key areas are genetics, posture and trauma.
#1 Genetics and Cervical Disc Herniations
With genetics I am referring to the genes passed down from your parents. Some of you have discs that are stronger more resilient to cervical disc herniations.
Some of you aren’t so fortunate like the rest of us.
#2 Trauma and Cervical Disc Herniations
Trauma such as car accidents or falls on the head can cause an immediate cervical disc herniation or if you had a milder trauma that didn’t require immediate treatment but pain later on, you can cause enough damage that accelerates that wear and tear that eventually leads to cervical disc herniations.
See also: Degenerative Disc Disease Part 1: Remedies For Lower Back Osteoarthritis
#3 Posture And Cervical Disc Herniations
Keeping proper posture keeps your discs happy. What I mean is when you have proper posture, the normal curves of the spine are maintained.
Slouching posture brings your head and neck forward. This puts more pressure on the front of the disc. Slouched posture basically pinches the front of the disc.
See Also: How To Improve Posture: 4 Upper Back Exercises
Your forward posture pinches the front of the disc is like pinching the front of a jelly doughnut. If you push hard enough or long enought the jelly eventually comes out.
To understand how this happens lets go over the stages of a cervical disc herniation.
Why Does Cervical Disc Herniation Happen?
Your disc has two basic parts. The nucleus and annulus. The nucleus and annulus is akin to an flat onion with jelly in it. (better analogy than jelly doughnut) The jelly is the nucleus and the onion part is the annulus with many circular layers.
Disc Bulge: Start of A Cervical Disc Herniation
By slouching forward you are putting pressure at the front of the disc mainly the annulus (onion) so it eventually starts to bulge the onion at the back by pushing the nucleus (jelly) backwards.
A disc bulge is wide and like pushing on the front of a balloon. It simply get larger at the back of the balloon.
This is called a disc bulge. For most of you there is no pain but for some of you there can be considerable neck pain and even radiating pain down the shoulder and arm from this small disc bulge.
My experience shows me that a lot of people with neck pain that hurts at the end of all movements especially backwards and have a moderate to severe forward head posture often have a disc bulge.
Disc Protrusion: Almost A Cervical Disc Herniation
A disc protrusion is like a disc bulge that comes out in one focused spot. The disc pushes out as if you had your finger inside a balloon and pushed out.
Most of the layers of the onion (annulus) have been damaged but the jelly (nucleus) is under considerable pressure. The jelly (nucleus) squeezes through the layers of the annulus (onion) with the few intact layers of the onion (annulus) and a the PLL (posterior longitudinal ligament) holding the jelly from spilling out. The disc is still contained by the annulus and PLL ligament. ie the balloon hasn’t popped.
Cervical Disc Protrusions usually cause quite a bit of neck pain and often times pain down the arm. Many of you, with disc protrusions, on the other hand, have absolutely no pain.
The trick is not to let your doctor diagnose you based on just a MRI. An MRI that shows a disc protrusion by itself is not a diagnosis. It’s what a normal person with no pain can have. Make sure there is other evidence!
Disc Extrusion: Full Cervical Disc Herniation
Disc Extrusion is a bulge so large that it breaks through the last layers of the onion (annulus) and the PLL ligament pushing into the area of the spinal cord and your nerves that branch from the spinal cord called nerve roots. ie. The balloon has popped. If you have an extrusion you likely have a tremendous amount of neck and arm pain that may radiate to your hand.
When you have a disc extrusion chances are the extrusion is likely causing your pain as it’s so large.
So the definition of a cervical disc herniation is when your nucleus has broken through all the protective layers of the annulus and popped right out.
A disc sequestration occurs when a piece of your jelly (nucleus) that breaks through the onion (annulus) and the PLL ligament has now broken off and moved away further into the spinal cord area. When you have a disc sequestration you have a tremendous amount neck pain and usually pain down the shoulder, upper arm and forearm down to the fingers.
Still, there are a small amount of people with disc sequestrations with no pain.
What You Feel With A Cervical Disc Herniation
To understand your neck you should understand what vertebrae your doctor is talking about. Cervical spine is talking about your neck portion of your spine.
There are seven vertebrae in the cervical spine. Short form for “cervical” is C. Since there are seven vertebrae We number them C1 just underneath your skull followed by C2, C3,C4,C5,C6 and finally C7 at the base of your spine.
Here are some common symptoms that you may have when you herniate a disc at a specific spot.
Some people are wired differently so of you may not feel these exact symptoms.
C01 Disc Herniation: There is not disc at this level to herniate.
C12 Disc Herniation: There is no disc at this level to herniate.
C23 Disc Herniation: C3 Nerve Pinches. You will likely feel pain in the upper neck only
C34 Disc Herniation: C4 Nerve Pinched. You will likely feel pain in the neck only.
C45 Disc Herniation: C5 Nerve Pinched. Usually you can feel pain in the neck that can radiate down to the base of the neck and sometimes down to the shoulder. Your deltoid muscle might be weak and tight.
C56 Disc Herniation: C6 Nerve Pinched. One of the most common disc herniations. You feel pain or numbness / tingling that radiates from the neck down to shoulder, upper arm to your thumb. Weakness and tightness in the muscles the allow your wrist to extend or bend backwards. Your biceps might get extra tight and weak. Commonly misdiagnosed as a shoulder problem or tennis elbow.
C67 Disc Herniation: C7 Nerve Pinched. One of the most common disc herniations. You will feel pain or numbness and tingling from the bottom of your neck down the shoulder to the back of the upper arm and possibly down to your middle finger. Your triceps might get extra tight and weak.
C7T1 Disc Herniation: C8 pinched nerve: Pain, numbness and tingling that radiates down the neck to the baby finger. Can make cause stiffness and weakness in your grip.
Exercises For Cervical Disc Hernations
With these exercises keep in mind if you have numbness and you now having tingling. This means there is less pressure on the nerve. You are actually getting better so you should continue with the exercises.
#1 Double Chin Exercises
- Tuck your chin in and very slightly down.
- Move the head slowly backwards until it is pulled back as far as it will go and keep it in this position for 4 seconds.
- You should see a double chin in the mirror.
Do this 10 times per session every 2 hours if you have cervical spine pain.
#2 Sitting Extension
- Sit down and do a double chin as above.
- Lift your chin to look up going as far as you can .
- Rock your neck side to side a little bit (your nose moves an inch -2cm either way) trying get further and further back each time you rock. (4-5 rocks)
- Keep going as far as you can for 4-5 nods.
- Do this 10 times per session every 2 hours for your cervical disc herniation.
Tell us what you think in the comments below and like us on Facebook. I will answer all questions in the comments section here at this downtown Toronto Chiropractic clinic.
380 Responses to Cervical Disc Herniation: Best Exercises For Your Sore Neck
March 2, 2021 at 5:49 pm
I have questioned u many time i got the answer too. after approx 2 years ago i had bulgung disc in c5 c6. I was quite comfortable after having long treatment by phsyio. But few days ago i got the stiff neck again tjis time i went to physio but this is of no use. I m still suffering. Doing all exercises applying pain relief gel. But in the gap of 2-3 days i have to take pain killer flexura d. Got relief for 2-3 days only. It has been almost 15 days plzz suggest…thanks
January 9, 2018 at 8:54 pm
I’m a 32 male and need your help with some clarity on numbness on my left thumb which has been apparent for near a month now. It seems to be caused not sure but near the time I started to lift weightsagain that might have cause a pinched nerve on my left side near shoulder and neck.
This has caused slight pain on my left arm and pain when sleeping on the left side. Occasionally I feel tingly or nerve sensation radiating from my shoulder to my arm down to my left thumb. I also feel randomly wth movement a sharp quick nerve feeling pain on my left shoulder. The pain is not unbearable but it’s more the constant numb tip of the left thumb that is bothering me for weeks. Do you know if this exercise or other exercise can help and will the thumb numbness go away with time? Wondering what I can do to improve the thumb numbness.
Please let me know
I really appreciate your time and help.
January 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm
THIS IS A GOOD WEBSITE you’ve hit. Dr Nakamura has really good exercises and sensible advice. There are plenty of hit and miss websites on Neurological Herniation and Pain Disorders so take time to read about the issue you have and ask questions that can help you to do something positive today.
Noting if you want help a diagnosis needs to know more than what the issue is but also about what you do in routine that may be a cause or compression injury result of or accident or self inflicted ? And contain CT report of Cor T or L number and relevant information so as to explain some story to help you action appropriate needs.
There is not a specific process for recovery because human lifestyle has a big part in how you action methods of exercise, routine and work related ergonomics.
January 24, 2018 at 6:43 am
Thanks for your comment Deciun.
January 24, 2018 at 7:04 am
Thanks for your question Vinh. Do the first exercises while lying down 6-8 times a day. Then report back to me your follow up.
Hope that helps your cervical disc herniation.
March 15, 2018 at 8:09 pm
Hi Vinh I have exactly your same symptoms and it also started after I started lifting weights.
Please do let me know what remedy you used.
January 7, 2018 at 9:10 pm
I an 35 years old from India. Once I got my neck stiff in morning then I went to yoga expert she gave me some treatment suddenly after her exercise my pain got worse I had continue pain in my right hand not able to move neck n I hold my hand to my head the pain was worse I got MRI it shows I have c5 c6 buging disc doctor suggested me to get operate I got worried then I go to physio he gave me ultrasound n shot wave it helps me nothing then I go to orthopedic he says no need to get operate he suggest me to do traction n gave very heavy pain relief then after a month my pain got in control my work is in computer n I have one year baby I have to hold her after few months I am feeling little pain n numbness in my arm again I went to same orthopedic but this time he said I have to get operate then I went to physio again this time she said no need for operate I am doing exercise continue got relief when do exercise but I have to do all my household work n work in computer in office n carry baby too so my parents pain appears suddenly the amount of pain is not so much but it is nightmare for me when I think about operation plz suggest me what to can only exercise help or have to got operate plz suggest
January 12, 2018 at 11:12 am
1. look at what causes are contributing to pain e.g you habits and unconscious processes. 2 change or discard habitual sabotage of proper exercises and lifestyle methods. 3. You create you pain, therefore you can fix or reduce this condition but don’t expect it to be easy. It is a lifestyle process that you may not be accepting or acknowledging that you need to overcome. Pain is both mental and physical and you must learn to pay attention to your life wellbeing. 4. do exercises consistently both at work,mat home and wherever. Use resources – books or file can be weights or bodyweight resistance exercises. Look on youtube for proper physio neck and back videos – Don’t ask for advice that is not assessable because your lifestyle is associated with the cause of you condition. Only you can fix that. You have to find ways to stop abusing yourself and make adjustments to you current routine to improve the physical degradation of joint and muscle problems. Surgery is not a fix. It will not improve your lifestyle. It will change your lifestyle in ways that you just don’t want to know about and it may prove unsuccessful leading to extensive pain treatment and permanent nerve damage of your spine.on’t ever compromise your life for a lifestyle change that disregards health. 7. You may have to adjust how you work – standing and sitting at computer – look at ergonomics of your work routine and at home and whatever you are doing around home that is associated to your posture including lifting, carrying and other manual processes. Even look at your bed mattress- it should be stable and flat not curves or squishy. Your pillow should be 1 to 2 inches less the width of your shoulder to spine. 8 do a meditation course it helps with pain management – seriously very useful with resistance exercise or yoga or pilates but you must first have a plan that is being monitored by a professional in back and neck expertise. Not a surgeon. 9 Do it for your own sake because there’s a stack of lazy people who are basically out of control asking ask for real advice but don’t want to do the hard work expecting it to be easy. RECOVERY is easy when you learn to do things properly and stop abusing yourself.
January 24, 2018 at 6:48 am
Deciun you should figure out who I am before writing negative things about chiropractic. I am writing these opinions to help everybody as a chiropractor. Think about it.
January 7, 2018 at 9:08 pm
I am 35 years old from India. Once I got my neck stiff in morning then I went to yoga expert she gave me some treatment suddenly after her exercise my pain got worse I had continue pain in my right hand not able to move neck n I hold my hand to my head the pain was worse I got MRI it shows I have c5 c6 buging disc doctor suggested me to get operate I got worried then I go to physio he gave me ultrasound n shot wave it helps me nothing then I go to orthopedic he says no need to get operate he suggest me to do traction n gave very heavy pain relief then after a month my pain got in control my work is in computer n I have one year baby I have to hold her after few months I am feeling little pain n numbness in my arm again I went to same orthopedic but this time he said I have to get operate then I went to physio again this time she said no need for operate I am doing exercise continue got relief when do exercise but I have to do all my household work n work in computer in office n carry baby too so my parents pain appears suddenly the amount of pain is not so much but it is nightmare for me when I think about operation plz suggest me what to can only exercise help or have to got operate plz suggest
January 23, 2018 at 9:44 pm
Thanks for your comment Sumi. You are saying that you really don’t want an operation and your life including holding the baby and your computer work aggravates the problem. Let me just say that here in Toronto I only know a handful of people in my 22 years that needed surgery. You may be one of the few but that actually need surgery. I would recommend that you go back to the physio again and do the traction. Only if things don’t work after doing at least 6 weeks of therapy do you need to even think about surgery?
Hope that helps your cervical disc herniation. If you have any more questions for this downtown Toronto chiropractor let me know.
March 1, 2019 at 12:22 am
Thank you so much sir I took traction and few exercises now I am 80% fine my pain occurs daily when I do work on computer for long period . But this is not a big issue I am happy that I can do many of my works easily. Can you suggest me works does and don’t. As I have to work at home and office both places with small baby. So I will take precautions while doing my work and one more thing should I wear neck collar white working in bending position at home or computer.
Sir one more thing I always have left hand shoulder pain when I hold Mobile for few minutes.
In my sonography doctors says you have btucites pain. Or is this because of c 5 c 6 disc problem which have created problem for my right hand earlier. Plzz suggest your positive words give me courage to face my problems
March 4, 2019 at 9:06 am
Thanks for your question Sumi. You should have proper posture by using a lumbar support roll and tucking your chin in instead of bending your neck forwards or sticking your chin out so much. You should also do some of the exercises in this article as long as they don’t make you worse. If the pain is further down the into the arm and less in the neck it is getting worse and you should stop the exercises.
I don’t know what “btucites” are neither does the
internet. The above is an opinion and not a recommendation. If you are looking for a recommendation then you should see a professional for that.
Hope that helps. If you have any more questions I would be happy to answer your questions regarding your cervical disc herniation the best I can.
July 5, 2019 at 11:33 am
Sir , I can I drive two wheeler. can wear Helmet on my head. I am now 80% recovered form my cervical C5 -C6 disc bulging. I have to drive approx 15 km one side total 30 km in a day.
July 9, 2019 at 3:18 pm
Thanks for your comment Suman, you didn’t ask a question. I would try the exercises and if helpful keep going, if it seems to be getting worse then you should stop. If you have any more questions let me know.
Hope that helps your cervical disc herniation.
Hope that helps.
January 2, 2018 at 3:51 pm
I have pain start from near left ear to shoulder and vibration in thumb and two adjacent fingers. Because of this doctor suggested me for MRI. my MRI report is reproduced below:
1. The MRI study shows altered curvature normal alignment.
2. C5 body shows reduced height with edplate irregularity and marginal osteophytes.
3. Multiple intervertebral disc show dark singal on T2 wtd images.
4. Mild to moderate central intervertebral disc protrusion at C4-5 and C5-6 with hard disk indenting the thecal sac and encroaching lateral neural canal
January 3, 2018 at 10:20 am
Thanks for your question Gajendra. While it can be the disc causing your symptoms it is possible that there is another cause of the symptoms are not typical. I cannot help you.
Good luck with your possible cervical disc herniation.
January 12, 2018 at 11:46 am
Rest Rest and lots of rest. No lifting weights minimum 1 kg / 2lb in each hand maximum for at least 3 months. get a bed that os super flat a semi hard. hence you need to sleep on your back use pillows or cushions to stop you rolling to sides. don’t sleep on stomach. Care with lumar use hence pressure. You can practice core exercises lying on floor or mat. Dead weight lifting from prone position only fo4r arms / shoulders. Walking exercise standing upright – observe horizon plane with eyesight straight ahead – not common posture fo4 walking because it feels like you will fall backwards – you won’t. That is all your exercise for at least till you show your herniation has reduced.
You can ice pack your discs but do this spaced at 20 minute intervals with 5 minutes ice time. Its a little unpleasant but it reduces inflammation and is better than anti-inflammatories. Buy a few ice packs so you can rotate their use for freezer.
i’m giving you this info because i had 3 herniated discs all in lumbar that I was able to recover from. You must look after yourself and be very careful because 1 stupid act can undo a months work. The process is slow and you might have to find something to preoccupy you mental processes. Suggest watching youtube but maybe even get yourself some video games to play. But you must not sit around all day – You must set a routine for exercise as suggested above and do some walking and socialise where you can sit ergonomically without causing undue physical stress.
You may not notice undoing healthy processes but those disc will tell you later in the day. Don’t over medicate. Your body will get used to pain killers and you will require more and more. ALL PAINKILLERS are addictive because their associate to neuro receptor shutdown. If you become addicted, its your own fault not your pain, your doctor or condition.
Do an online pain meditation course. Even if you have to pay to get really good teaching its worth having that skill for the rest of your life. Practice this every day because it adds to routine where work or lack thereof won’t.
Whoever overseas you medical condition stay in touch but be sensible about recovery time. It’s not going to be forever unless you are an idiot and don’t care about how you deal with herniations. Surgery wont fix your problem it’s likely to make your quality of life far worse because recovery is extensive and very expensive. And a few herniated disc are nothing compared to bone deterioration and nerve damage. You aren’t too far gone.
November 2, 2017 at 2:43 am
I have bulging discs in my neck, C5/6. I have had it for 5 years, sometimes it flares up, some pain & i have some physio. This then makes it better. This time, i think i had slept in a abnormal position on the sofa when i had a cold. The pain gradually got worse over 2 weeks then became unbearable. Some medication to help, again physio is helping however its been 3 weeks. Any exercises? I am doing head forward to chest, then head to left shoulder. Thanks
November 8, 2017 at 8:30 am
Thanks for your question Kabeer. From my point of view, the exercises don’t make sense as you go in one direction or another. Perhaps they have a different diagnosis and are not relying on the MRI as MRIs are often not correlated with pain. I cannot give you exercises as it may not be a disc herniation. Why would your physio give you contradictory exercises otherwise? I would have to examine you first to make further comment.
Hope you get the help that you need for your cervical disc herniation.
December 19, 2017 at 11:11 pm
Dr i have cervical spondylosis.small disc bulges c3 c4 c5 c6.doctors say i should not worry.my problem is pain at the base of the skull. Is it because of the disc bulges? I had a head injury before my neck pain and base of skull pain.i have a little tingling in my left index finger.traps musle ache a lot of times.upper back spasms.what exercise should i do most? I am doing chin tucks. Stretching and isometric exercise to strengthen neck.still in pain for 5 months now.
December 22, 2017 at 9:00 am
Thanks for your question Onil. It is possible that the problem at the base of the skull is due to the disc bulges but aggravating factors such as prior accidents and posture can play a part. Try the first exercise on a regular basis (1 set of 10 every 2 hours) and see how you feel. If you feel worse then you need to stop. It may be better if you hold the exercises in a static position for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes. Try the exercises the way it’s shown in this article. If there is no relief but you aren’t worse then try the holding it in a static position as described above.
Hope that helps your cervical disc herniation. If you have any questions for this chiropractor from downtown Toronto I will do my best to answer your question.