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What is Causing Your Neck Pain?

One of the most common complaints I see in the clinic is neck pain. Around 67% of the population will experience neck pain at some point during their life. There are many different causes of neck pain. Disc injuries are one of the most common types. Disc injuries occur more in males and more commonly between the ages of 40-60 years old.  In this article, we will cover:

  • What our disc is composed of
  • Different types of disc injuries
  • And exercises to prevent disc injuries.

Anatomy Review

The discs in our neck are shock absorbers that provide cushioning between each vertebra of our spine. These discs are like jelly donuts. There is a fibrous outer shell called the annulus fibrous (the dough) and a gel (jelly) filled center called the nucleus pulposus. When we look down, we put a lot of pressure on the front side of the disc. This pressure can cause the back of the disc to push out. 

Types of Disc Injuries

There are multiple ways a disc could show an injury. This could be a bulging disc or a herniated disc. A bulging disc occurs when the gel fluid breaks and moves into the outer shell, causing it to swell or deform. A disc herniation occurs when the fluid breaks all the way through the outer shell and leaks into the spinal canal. The fluid can contact one or more nerves exiting the spinal canal, which can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand. 

Ways to Prevent Disc Injuries 

One reason we are seeing more disc injuries is because of desk jobs and technology. With this, we are looking down constantly throughout the day. By looking down, we are pushing more fluid backward and outward. This is why people who are experiencing a cervical herniation will normally feel worse looking down and will normally feel better with looking up. When we look up, we are in what we call an extended position, which stops the fluid from leaking out and decreases that pressure on the front of the disc allowing it to heal. 

Exercises that focus on correct posture throughout the day can help to reduce your risk for a disc herniation or injury. 

Military Posture: Instructions: Try this exercise right from your desk. Pinch your shoulder blades together and down, keeping neck relaxed.
Hold for 5 seconds.
Repeat 10 times.
Complete throughout the day when feeling tight.

Chin Tuck:  Instructions: While sitting at your desk, tuck your chin toward your throat. Make sure to keep your eyes level (don’t look down or up).
Hold for 2-3 seconds.
Repeat 10 times.
Complete throughout the day when feeling tight.

If you’d like to learn more about disc herniations or would like to speak directly with one of our Physical Therapists, you can schedule your free appointment here.


Abe T, Miyakoshi N, Hongo M, et al. Symptomatic cervical disc herniation in teenagers: two case reports. J Med Case Rep. 2013;7:42. Published 2013 Feb 12. doi:10.1186/1752-1947-7-42



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