Movement precautions for person with herniated cervical disc

Movement precautions for person with herniated cervical disc


I have a student who is afraid to move due to a cervical disc herniation. I don’t want to hurt her! What precautions should I be taking?

Movement precautions for Herniated Cervical Disc

Thank you for your question, and of course I understand your concern! The main thing is to never encourage your student to push through pain and always encourage them to listen to their body and stay with in the parameters that feel safe. It can be very scary coming back from an injury like that….even the smallest micro movement can be helpful.

When there is damage to the body, the natural healing reaction of the body is to seize and hold tight to create stability for the injured area.  This is an important automatic reaction.  But, that tight holding over time can cause muscles to tighten and loose their ability to extend and contract which is important for neck mobility. That is why starting with small, micro movements linked to breath can help to release chronic contraction and ease pain.

Movement Guidance for Herniated Cervical Disc

Encourage your student to start with just the gentlest of movements, linked to breath…..even a centimeter of movement is movement, and over time that range of motion will increase. Axial extension is key, to avoid compression on the discs and nerves. Inhale lengthen through crown of head, exhale and turn chin to right only as far as is comfortable, inhale to center, exhale to left. Repeating several times to each side. Same movement could go for flexion and extension and even a lateral stretch….but not when your student is in acute pain and with even the slightest amount of movement.

Additionally, moving the shoulders, arms hands as well as the rest of the spine (and body, for that matter), can be beneficial to helping the client release overall tension. I know this probably goes without saying, but I say it every time anyway – no headstand or shoulderstand with cervical disc damage.

Yoga Videos for Herniated Cervical Disc and Neck Tension

I included a few videos below to help release fascia in the neck, shoulder and arm as a safe and easy way to help someone with cervical disc damage release tension. The looking over the shoulder is just a range of motion test for the ‘aha’ moment, it is not necessary. I hope this helps your student…..and since the fascia is always tightening, this always works to release tension!

Caution: Neck tension can also be caused by cervical arthritis, herniated discs and/or damage to the structural integrity of the neck as in whiplash. Always move slowly and gently when doing these movements using the exhale as you stretch to release your body’s gripping sensation.


Justine Shelton, Certified Yoga Therapist

Fascia Neck Release – Amazing Ear Wiggle with Justine Shelton, Certified Yoga Therapist

If you have tight and tense neck muscles then most likely your fascia is tight and limiting your mobility. Here’s proof that everything in your body is interconnected. Find out how simple movements like wiggling your ear and your thumb can release neck tension. Be prepared to be Amazed!

Relief for Tight Neck and Shoulders – Stretch and Lengthen – with Sherry Zak Morris, C-IAYT

Neck pain, tension and tightness are common symptoms in our present age of sitting in a stationery position for long periods of time. If this particular Neck and Shoulder stretch feels good, you probably have tight traps and levator scapulae muscles. Could be all that leaning forward over your tech devices! This is a good reminder to keep our shoulders down and pulled back just a little more.

What I learned about Whiplash Recovery with Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapist

Twenty years ago I got whiplash which changed the structure of my neck. I’ve worked hard to keep my neck mobile and elongated in order to avoid cervical disc compression. Thanks to my dedication to Yoga, I have no pain or nerve issues. But there was one thing I forgot to add into my Yoga self-care plan! If you have neck instability, misalignment or trouble moving your neck… try these movements for mobility and strength of your beautiful neck.

Justine Shelton, Certified Yoga Therapist & Co-Founder of the Yoga Vista Academy

Justine is a graduate of the American Viniyoga Institute under the direction of Gary Kraftsow. She is the Co-Founder of the Yoga Vista Academy and author of their ‘Gentle Yoga for Low Back Care specialty certification program. Justine specializes in structural yoga therapy, specifically spinal disc injuries, back pain management, as well as joint therapy – including prehab and rehab for replacements.

Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapist

Sherry Zak Morris, Certified Yoga Therapist and Co-Founder of the Yoga Vista Academy

Sherry is a Certified Yoga Therapist and has a proven track record for empowering and igniting passion for 50+ Yoga and wellness. A 3-Time Presenter at the annual Yoga Alliance Conference, the professional and trade association of the yoga world, her enthusiasm for serving those with movement limitations gained exposure for her Specialty Teacher Training Programs. Sherry’s work can be found on YouTube and in the Yoga Vista Online Video Library, YogaVista.TV, where she shares her special style of Energizing Yoga that is accessible to everyone!