A Comprehensive Guide to Herniated Discs in the Neck

A Comprehensive Guide to Herniated Discs in the Neck

When most people think of protecting themselves in sports, they likely gravitate to places like the head, the knees and the elbows. But protecting your neck is no laughing matter, and one of the most common—and preventable—injuries to occur in the neck is the herniated disc.

But what exactly are herniated discs? What causes them, how do you treat them, and can you stop them from happening in the first place? You’ve come to the right spot to find out. Read on to learn everything you need to know about herniated discs. And if you like what you read here and were able to use it for your own battles with a herniated disc, drop us a comment and let us know!

A Brief Overview of Herniated Discs

“Herniated disc” might be a familiar name to some, but comparatively few know what this ailment actually entails. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, herniated discs in the neck are relatively rare; they tend to occur most frequently in the lower back. That said, a herniated disc can happen anywhere along the curvature of the spine, and older athletes in particular are more at risk of getting one in their neck.

As you age, your spinal disks lose some of their fluidity and gelatinous protective layer over time, making them less flexible and more prone to injury. A herniated disc in the neck occurs when some of this gelatin seeps through the bone and begins to irritate the surrounding discs and nerves. This ailment often occurs naturally in older people regardless of vocation, but considering that your odds of a herniated disc increase from falls and impacts, athletes in middle and upper age fall in the middle of a perfectly unfortunate Venn diagram of people most likely to suffer from a herniated disc.

Luckily, while far from pleasant, herniated discs almost never require surgery or invasive treatment of any kind to fix. They will usually amend themselves after a few weeks of restorative therapy, resting your sore points and common-sense relaxation techniques.

How to Recover from a Herniated Disc

young athlete in front of field goal

You should always visit your doctor and inquire as to the best course of action for your specific treatment whenever you think you might have a herniated disc. That said, there are some simple things you can do to speed along your recovery, and a few of these tips might even work as treatment plans in and of themselves.

  • Rest: There’s nothing like a soft couch, a firm pillow and a healthy dose of Netflix to recover from a herniated disc in the neck. Take the pressure off, but don’t lie around for too long; you’ll want to start moving around again as soon as you feel comfortable in doing so, so that your neck can re-acclimate itself to the pressure and movements you’ll need it to perform in your daily life. A couple days of taking it easy generally does the trick, although most times rest is to be used in conjunction with the other methods listed here.
  • Stretches and Exercise: There are a few simple stretches you can perform in your downtime to make the pain of a herniated disc in the neck resolve that much faster. Try gently rolling your shoulders back and forth or tucking your chin to your neck and back again in a slow movement. You can do these stretches any time you have a free moment, but they work best when your body is at its most limber, like when stretching out upon waking or getting out of a hot shower. A foam roller can also be used to make some of these stretches easier and provide a great level of relief on its own terms.
  • Physical Therapy: Your doctor might recommend visiting a physical therapist if you’re suffering from a herniated disc in the neck and stretches and Ibuprofen don’t seem to be working as fast as they should be. Physical therapy can be a fantastic option because not only will it help with your current ailment, but a good physical therapist will perform routines that strengthen and add flexibility to other parts of your body too. These procedures will also help with inculcating good habits regarding poster and stretching. The American Physical Therapy Association offers a helpful search engine that you can use to locate a physical therapist in your hometown and start kicking that herniated disc in the neck to the curb.
  • Surgery: Thankfully, it isn’t an especially common occurrence, but occasionally a herniated disc will be such a persistent injury that some level of surgery or invasive healing may be necessary to correct it. At the simpler end, this can mean a cortisone injection in the spine; in more drastic cases, a complex surgical procedure may be required. Surgeries like this can be expensive and carry their own set of risks, so only consider this option if all other solutions have failed.
  • Braces and Wraps: There’s nothing like a neck brace for a comfortable, affordable and ergonomic means of ensuring a quick recovery. Universal cervical collars are true to their name in providing relief for a variety of neck problems, while our pediatric collar comes in a variety of sizes to provide care for kids of all ages. No matter your age or circumstances, if you’re running into trouble with a herniated disc in the neck, SportsBraces.com has a product that can help you off the couch and get your game back on track.

Preventing a Herniated Disc

man dunking a basketball outdoors

Herniated discs can happen to anyone, but that doesn’t mean they have to happen to you. With some common sense and a dose of healthy living, you can stop this injury in its tracks before it even has a chance to manifest.

Staying hydrated is more important than you may realize. According to Vivian Goldschmidt, MA, of the Save Institute, hydration has a strong impact on bone health that many people take for granted. Staying hydrated is important for staying flexible, and the functionality of your spine is deeply entwined with the muscles and ligaments across every part of your body. Hydration plays a huge role in a person’s overall health, in ways both great and small. It stands to reason, then, that making sure you drink plenty of water while you’re hitting the field is a great way to prevent a herniated disc in the neck.

Speaking of flexibility and hydration, it’s imperative that you stretch and perform routines in the proper form for your sport of choice, not just to keep needless injury at bay but to make yourself better at the game. A player who practices good form in pitching or sliding, for example, will be moving their body in such a way that tension is distributed evenly throughout the parts of their body that are in use. And since your spine is vital to pretty much every type of movement your body can do, you’ll greatly reduce the chances of a herniated disc in the neck if you avoid excess pressure to the top of your spine as you play.

If you find spinal problems to be a recurring issue in your life, you might consider trying to cut some weight as well. Many studies show that being obese or overweight has a direct link to spine disorders and back pain. Keeping unnecessary weight off isn’t just a great way to avoid getting a herniated disc in the neck; it will improve your athleticism and promote a happier, healthier life overall.

Finally, never count out the power of an awesome brace for stopping bone problems in their tracks before they even have a chance to develop. Our neck supports can be a major lifeline. Slipping one on right as you start to feel soreness or irritation -- or even wearing one in your downtime between games -- can make it so you never have to worry about having to deal with a herniated disc in the neck.

Our comfy and reusable thermal compress provides warm relief after a hard game. For heavy-duty care, this neck and back brace will give you all the support and protection you could ever want. And if you’re strapped for cash, our clearance section has some great preemptive care to offer as well.

Get in the Game With SportsBraces.com

man holding football at sundown

Speaking of clearance, you don’t have to be suffering from a herniated disc in the neck to get in on all the good deals we’ve got going year round at SportsBraces.com. We offer a vast clearance section with items that cover every part of the body, so whether it’s a pain in the neck or a crick in the back that you’re looking to deal with—or that you’re trying to avoid in the first place—SportsBraces.com has something in your budget that’ll keep you playing long after your teammates’ dogs start barking.

If you liked this post about the not-so-wonderful world of herniated discs in the neck, we have a resource called Brace University that gives you easy access to all kinds of knowledge about different parts of the body, what to do when you injure them, and what kinds of braces and wraps are best to wear to keep you in peak condition. And of course, our blog is always being updated, so check back regularly for new products and tips.

Lastly, we want to hear from you, the readers! Have you ever suffered from a herniated disc in the neck? How did it happen, and what did you end up doing to finally put your spine back in good working order? Let us know in the comments below; we’re always trying to hear and learn from you, the community that keeps us going strong.


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