T Nation

Help: Upper Back and Neck Injury


Here is my situation in a nutshell...

Minor scoliosis (not sure of details, diagnosed long time ago and was told it was not in any way a factor).

Patrol Officer in a police department meaning I spend much of a 10-12 hour shift in a patrol car.

Very active lifestyle. Weight train(powerlifting and some Olympic lifts) 3-4 times a week. Also train boxing/wrestling/jiujitsu 3 to 4 times per week and have been doing so for a over a decade, including mma competition.

Had numerous back and neck injuries over the years which were always diagnosed as soft tissue resulting from subluxations.
Nothing ever too serious and always recovered with some treatment.

Months ago I tweaked my right shoulder doing weighted dips(pain ran from shoulder blades down back of shoulder) but was pretty minor so I ignored it, chalking it up to my notoriously tight shoulders. Gradually, I began getting some tingling in my right fingertips, particularly evident when seated with my arm outstretched such as using a computer mouse or running a radar unit.

Last week I was moving underneath a big guy in a headlock and felt a fairly sharp pain in my lower cervical/upper thoracic area which immediately radiated across my right shoulder blade all the way down to my right fingertips.

The next 2 days I was seriously hurting - border line debilitated. I broke down and went to a physician(not much confdence in 99% of them) because I thought I may have done something very serious. His diagnosis after an exam and xrays was soft tissue injury - ligament sprain at worst - and he told me to rest. Not a lot of help.

I also started seeing a chiropractor recommended by my buddy(also a chiropractor) who is pretty talented at straightening out my particular area of injury. 5 days after the injury(the traumatic one...I realize I have a number of things going on that set this up)and two adjustments, I am feeling much better, pain is 80% less and the tingling in my fingertips is just about gone in every position.

My questions for the knowledgable guys here are these...

The chiropractor told me the same thing as in previous injuries...pretty bad subluxations. Im not looking for a remote diagnosis, but are there any other thoughts on what may be going on here?

What type of exercises would be suited to rehab this remedy this particular situation and how soon should they be started? I should note that my regular training is pretty balanced in that I do tons of posterior chain work, upper back work and rotator cuff work and I maintain pretty decent flexability through yoga and jiujitsu(again, with the exception of my shoulders).

Im looking for a long term gameplan to minimize these interruptions in my work, training and life. Believe it or not, Im also interested in learning as much about this purely for academic purposes just because Im like that.

Some of the guys I work with have similar problems from sitting in a cramped patrol car all day with 30 pounds of uncomfortable gear hanging off of you. Ill be sure to pass any advice on to them.

Thanks in advance.


I've got basically the same thing. For me its been a process of learning how to manage it. I don't think it will ever be 100% for me. The one thing I feel strongly you should do is give up the contact sports. It's tough to give up something you love but otherwise you will continue to get subluxated.


Hey. I'll just tell you what's happened to me and you can make your own inferences as to whether it's right for you. I have similar problems with numbness down into my extremeties and have been dealing with shoulder problems for the last 4 years. There's a bunch of stuff that could be going on.

One, you've already identified that there are spinal problems from a chiropractor. I would (I did) rule out a cervical disc buldge. Certain activities can aggrivate the symptoms of a disc buldge. There are physical therapy programs to address disc buldges without surgery. If it were me, I'd rule out cervical problems first. Most of the nerves that exit your cervical spine pass through your brachial plexus and/or through your shoulder and down your arm. If you have any mechanical issues with your shoulder that could cause nerve symptoms further down the arm.

Or there could be mechanical blockages of the nerve somewhere else along the path from the spine to the finger. A neurologist should be consulted for that. They can determine through various studies if there is a problem somewhere elsa. Muscular tension could also play into referred pain as a result of trigger points. There really are a number of things that could be going on. I'm still searching for the answers with me.

If you can find a CHEK practitioner in your area (level III or IV) they should be able to identify any issues you have and refer you out to specialists who could help you with your problem. I'm not trying to turn this into a science project, nor am I suggesting that you require such in depth investigation of your problems, but those are just some thoughts I have based on my experience similar to yours. You can find a CHEK practitioner in your area by going to chekinstitute.com. I'm not endorsing the CHEK institue or anything but the guy I've worked with in NC has helped me immensely in guiding me.

If you want to talk further give me a PM, or if you think it would benefit T-mag post. I don't know anything except what's worked for me.


Thanks for the in depth responses to my post. I appreciate your input and experience. In fact thats the reason I posted in the over 35 lifter forum even though im in my late 20s. I figured there would be some warhorses that have been where I am that would see the post and offer feedback.

I can only find level 2 CHEK practitioners in my area. Level 3 or 4s would require a 2 hour + drive. If this problem persists, I may bite the bullet. If you dont mind me asking, what exactly did your guy/gal do for you? Assess postural and other imbalances or actually conduct therapy?

I now realize the mistake I made and that was ignoring the little signs before they became the bigger problem. I absolutely may have been able to knock this out if I would have taken corrective steps 2 months ago. Instead, I ramped up my Olympic lifts. I realize the stupidity of this in hindsight.

Giving up my athletic pursuits are not an option. Honestly, I think the single biggest contributing factor in my injury is my job anyway. Like I said, 10 hours a day in a patrol car with all that gear on has destroyed many men's backs/necks.
I train 10-20 hours most weeks but I spend 40 to 50 hours a week sitting in the car. Im not real sure what I can do about that. Perhaps you guys have a suggestion?

Lastly, has anyone tried any interventions in regard to sleeping surface such as some of the memory foam mattresses or pillows. I was considering these options, but they are pricey and Im not sure if they are worth it.

Ive budgeted the next 4 to 6 weeks to careful, rehabilitative training including a lot of cardiovascular and flexibility work as well as lighter weight training to cure imbalance issues (using Dave Tate's Beat to Hell program from elitefts.com as well as specific work for my neck, upper back and shoulders). My time on the mat will probably be spent drilling to avoid uncontrolled exchanges like the one that lead to my present condition.

I firmly believe Ill come back stronger and healthier than before and I will owe part of it to this great website.


I have no expertice to answer this question. Just a layman thought. Could adjusting your carseat help? I mean, seat forward or backward for legspace and changing the angle you are used to sit in. Do you lean to the window? Changing these parameters might alleviate the stress on the affected musclefibers.


JD. Hey man. Where are you located? Anyway... my CHEK practitioner assessed my primal movement patterns such as, walk, squat, bend, etc. Assessed the function of my TVA (internal abdominals) overhauled my diet, etc. I too am in my late 20's, I just got an early start on the injury bug.

I am also a client of Paul Chek's, founder of the CHEK institue, so I'm probably a worst case scenario. But I'm glad if you can use anything that I say. But for me the first thing my practitioner changed was my diet. I was put on a 4-day rotation diet where I removed gluten (protein in process grains that can inflame your gut and mess up inner abdominal functioning and digestion), and rotated my meat and vegetables every 4 days.

For me, and this is just me, I gained 20 lbs of muscle doing correcive exercises for my shoulder (not bodybuilding but functional exercises). Not much weight was used either according to what I used to lift bodybuilding. I don't know if it was the gluten, the rotation, or what. But it was obvious that what you eat can have an enormous influence on your body, as well as it's ability to heal. THose types of results had me immediately realizing this path was something to follow a little more.

Anyway, the check practitioner would also assess your posture, and any other orthopedic problems (which he might refer you to a specialist for such as if you had developed a pattern of anterior instability in your shoulder), and then create an awesome corrective excersize program for you. A lot of the exercises might be new to you (even if you've been on this site for a while), but man did mine get results?? Absolutely. I am not sure if a level II practitioner can help you or not.

My practitioner is very honest. I think that is something they stress in the CHEK program... Let him know your situation, and whether or not he could help you. If he can't, call the nearest CHEK III and ask him. I'm 28, and used to weightlift 5 days a week approx. 2 hours a day. I wanted to lift more weight, get bigger, etc. at the expense of form. I didn't discover this site until after I injured both shoulders. It makes me cringe when I see guys like the deisel weasel doing zurch squats. I feel sorry for him.

One day it will catch up with you, and then you have to go down the path I'm headed . I can tell you right now that I've gotten more from my chek practitioner than anything I've tried in 4 years. Paul Chek has a few articles on here. They are real technical and scientific, and my not seem like that have application in the bodybuilding world. But he is in the corrective exercise business, not bodybuilding. I'm glad T-mag is a forum for both types.

However the deadlift (concentrating on form) and squat were 2 core lifts in my program, mainly because you have to stabilize the spine during the lift and it integrates your kinetic chain as well as strengthening muscles that improve "posture". I have tried a lot of stuff man, being in pain sucks as you know. Can't do what you want to do: lift. I think a ot of bodybuilders are in that boat to some degree... some quit, but you sound like you ain't quitting and that's why I replied.

You can probably do a lot towards achieving an overall better physique while modifying your program. For me I had to get over the fact that I couldn't do the traditional bodybuilding (really powerlifting) lifts like bench any more. For me, that was and is hard. I ain't no HYUGE T-man any more, but I still run about 170 at 5' 10" with about 5% BF... and that's more than I got doing a lot of the bodybuilding routines I've seen.

You can do a lot on your own, reading this site. But with something like you've got going on, I definitely wouldn't try and fix it yourself, because you don't have to. And your chances are better when working with someone who might have seen something just like you before. I hope that you make some progress man. The comeback road is a tough road, but you'll learn a lot. Hope some of this helps.


You will also be given corrective streches for tight muscles based on your postural assessment. You will probably start the corrective exercise program pretty quickly if you go with the CHEK guy so you shouldn't be bored with time on your hands. Like I said though, be ready to change your diet.


Oh, and I just realized you are a fighter. Hell man, the functional exercises you will learn should benefit you a lot. Shit, when I hit baseball after working with the CHEK guy for about 3 months, I was amazed. I've still got my hand eye coordination, but I could use my hips so much better to generate power... really from the ground up.