If you’re experiencing regular bouts of neck pain, or you’re having constant pain or aching in the neck due to a disc issue, you may be looking for some effective stretches you can do that will help the problem. When visiting physios or doctors, they may recommend you to do some stretches without fully explaining why these are beneficial or why they will help your problem. Today, we’ll be discussing three stretches: two that will be beneficial, and one that will not be helpful. Ironically, the unhelpful stretch is often one that comes highly recommended for disc problems.
Hopefully, you’ll understand exactly why you’re doing these exercises, and the benefits that can be had from them, rather than just blindly going in and doing an exercise simply because you were told to. That’s one of the things that’s so important to us when patients come here, so they understand why they’re doing something, even in a simplistic manner, because that means they’re more likely to do the exercises and be committed to spending time everyday completing them. It’s also important to not get confused with conflicting advice on the internet, if at least you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll understand its relevance to you and if it’s right for you.
Why Is This Stretch Recommended?
So why is this stretch so highly recommended? The inflammation that occurs from your head having shifted forwards, stems from where the nerves exit from your spine. There are little holes that your nerves exit from, so performing a forward stretch will make that hole bigger, which will alleviate some of the pressure on that nerve. The consequence of this, is that it will put more stress on the discs, which are most likely injured in the first place because your head goes too far forward. It also stretches muscles that are already stretched beyond their normal capacity, so that’s also not helpful. Exercises like this are often recommended without a full understanding or grasp on what stresses and strains are affecting your neck, for example if imaging hasn’t been performed where it perhaps should be to give a clearer indication as to what’s causing the patient’s problem, or posture hasn’t been taken accurately into account. Sometimes an exercise may be beneficial, but only in the very short-term. If an exercise has been prescribed and the patient continues to perform it for the next six months they risk making the problem worse.
What Stretches Are Beneficial?
Now onto two exercises that you will benefit from, that you can do in the following order. The first uses an exercise band, or a strap of some sort, and we’ll be trying to take the pressure off the discs at the front. As we said earlier, if you’ve got forward head carriage you’ll be compressing those discs much more than they would normally, leaving them susceptible to bulging or herniation. Using this exercise, you’ll be opening up space on the discs from the front, which effectively alleviates the pressure on those structures that are causing inflammation. This targets the problem at the very root cause, rather than the consequence of your neck pain. To perform this stretch, you’re going to hold a band firmly at either end, place the middle at the back of your neck and very gently and slowly, pull forwards on the band and at the same time look back. Our video at the top goes through a visual demonstration of how to perform the exercise, which you should watch to make sure you’re performing the exercise properly. If you go excessively fast on this exercise, you’ll stand a chance of injuring yourself and won’t get the benefit of the exercise. Work within a small range of motion and a gentle pumping. In terms of repetitions, do around 15 and move onto the next exercise.