Cervical disc herniation is a common problem in adults and the severity ranges from mild to severe. Disc bulge or protrusion is an initial stage when the disc partially bulges out and is not completely herniated or prolapsed. However, it is at risk of progressing to the advanced stage of disc herniation and hence, must be protected from further injury. Exercises for C5 disc bulge can not only help in preventing damage but also help in recovery and healing.
C5 Disc Bulge
Cervical disc herniation occurs when the intervertebral disc becomes degenerated due to the natural aging process. Hence the chronic type of C5 disc bulge often presents with a gradual onset and pain may be dull aching or less severe. However, an acute herniation or C5 disc bulge is due to trauma that results when the nucleus pulposus extrudes through a defect in the annulus fibrosus. This usually begins suddenly with more severe symptoms and often has a history of trauma. The occurrence of cervical disc herniation is often seen in the third to fifth decades of life and increases with age for both men and women. It occurs more frequently in females, accounting for more than 60% of cases.1
Some risk factors for C5 disc bulge include prior lumbar radiculopathy, cigarette smoking, lifting heavy weights, operating vibrating machines, and playing golf. Previous injuries, genetic make, and predisposition can put at an increased risk of cervical disc bulge and nerve impingement. People about 40 years and above are found to have a greater risk of cervical radiculopathy.2
A C5 disc bulge can result in symptoms like neck pain, stiffness, decreased range of neck motion, cervical radiculopathy with numbness, tingling in one or both arms, and sometimes weakness in the arms or radiating pain along the nerve course. Clinically sensory deficits, motor deficits, and diminished reflexes may be observed.3
Exercises to Manage and Recover From C5 Disc Bulge (H2)
Management of C5 disc bulge often includes medical treatment along with physical therapy. Various modalities of physical therapy may be used to heal the injury and promote recovery in the acute phase. The further rehabilitation program will begin with some basic exercises for C5 disc bulge and progress to neck strengthening exercises. Exercises for C5 disc bulge are considered to be the most effective ways to reduce the symptoms and regain functionality. The main focus of exercises for C5 disc bulge is to relieve the protrusion, reduce pain and associated symptoms, improve range of motion, relieve muscle tension and release the pinched nerve, and improve muscle strength.
In a 2008 case report, a treatment plan for C5- C6 disc herniation included physical therapy with cervical traction and progressive therapy. The initial exercise program included neck side tilts or cervical lateral flexion stretch, and unilateral wall stretch for the pectoralis muscles. These could work on the cause of nerve impingement, hence chosen. With the progression of therapy, the exercises included chin tucks, standing rows with the band, and scapular stabilization exercises.4
It is important to be cautious while performing these exercises and should be done with the guidance of a medical expert or physical therapist. You should begin slowly and progress gradually based on the improvement in the symptoms.
Forward head posture can sometimes increase the risk of cervical disc bulge, hence exercises that focus on improving the posture are equally important. Flexibility and range of motion exercises for C5 disc bulge include
Neck – Basic neck movements, moving the neck up and down, moving side to side, tilting the neck without bending, and bending towards the sides. The neck side tilts or cervical lateral flexion stretch are particularly important as they give a stretch that helps relieve discomfort. These exercises for C5 disc bulge are considered the most important, to begin with as they improve the neck movement and blood circulation to the area.
Chin Tucks – Chin tuck exercises are considered one of the best exercises for C5 disc bulge as they can not only reduce neck pain but also help in healing. Chin tucks are often recommended as one of the basic exercises as these can be performed at any level. Perform the chin tuck exercises as comfortably as possible. As your flexibility improves, gradually your neck range of motion will also improve. These basic exercises for C5 disc bulge are usually followed by other strength-building neck exercises depending on the condition.
In most cases of neck pain due to cervical disc bulge the neck and head alignment is disturbed, due to weak muscles, previous injuries, medical conditions, or aging and degeneration. Chin tuck exercises help relieve neck pain by:
- Improving the alignment and the neck posture
- Letting the muscles relax and improving their elasticity and flexibility
- Helping develop the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and the upper back
- Strengthening the muscles and surrounding tissues
- Improving the neck range of motion and relieving pain
Shoulders – Improving the flexibility of the shoulders is one of the important exercises for a cervical C5 disc bulge. It not only helps stretch the muscles but also helps in releasing the tensed muscles around the neck, shoulder, and arm. This help reduce the pain and numbness due to cervical disc bulge. These exercises include shoulder shrugs, shoulder rolls, and rotation of the arm with the hand outstretched, for which, wall support can be taken. Initially, you may find it difficult to move the affected arm but you can begin comfortably and slowly progress.
Arms – Some exercises to perform with the outstretched arms are also effective. These include the following exercises:
- Unilateral wall stretch exercise to stretch the pectoralis or chest and arm muscles. Stand next to a wall and raise one arm by the side. Rest the raised hand on the wall at chest level and gently try to rotate in the opposite direction. This gives a stretch to the upper chest and arm on the side of the raised hand. Repeat the same on the other side.
- Raise the arms above the head and touch both the palms with elbows straight to form a salutation pose. Do it comfortably and only as much as possible.
- With the same position, interlock the fingers of both the hands and turn both the palms facing the ceiling, and stretch the hands in the upwards direction. This is one of the best exercises for the cervical C5 disc bulge as it gives a gentle stretch and helps relieve the tension in the surrounding muscles.
Further, the exercise program continues with resistance and weight training exercises for C5 disc bulge. Resistance exercises are best done under an expert’s guidance and only you are comfortable with them after the range of motion exercises. These are mainly done to improve the strength of the muscles and tissues around the neck and shoulders. In this, the resistance is offered by placing the expert’s hand to make your muscles work in the desired manner. Once you can perform them you may be asked to place your hand. Exercises for the shoulders and arms are also performed using the resistance band.
Weight training exercises for cervical C5 disc bulge include the use of weights like dumbbells to work out the shoulder and upper back muscles, along with the muscles of the arm, biceps, and triceps. These prove to be effective in relieving the radiating pain and strengthening muscles helps prevent further injuries.