No lordotic curve in cervical spine, technical advice? No lordotic curve in cervical spine, technical advice?

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Thread: No lordotic curve in cervical spine, technical advice?

  1. #1
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    Default No lordotic curve in cervical spine, technical advice?

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    Iím a 47 yo male, 5í 8Ē, 176lbs.

    Bottom line question:

    I have a straight cervical spine, meaning no lordotic curve, but not kyphotic. This is obviously not an efficient means by which to support oneís noggin, but I get by and still train. Can you, Rip, or any of the coaches recall having trained anyone with a straight c-spine? If so, what training modifications were made? If not, what kind of cues or tips might you recommend? For instance, Iím wondering if I should have a slightly higher gaze when squatting. Also, when benching, I use a Rogue AbMat with the fat side under my neck, as I noticed a little nausea and dizziness after training when I didnít do this. So Iím going by the seat of my pants to modify my training instinctively, but Iíd like to know if you have other structural or technical advice. Iíd love to visit the gym in Wichita Falls for some actual coaching, but this will have to do for now. I just began SS in earnest and really enjoy using the app.

    Background info:

    In 2013 I built a garage gym after about 10 years of of no training at all. I eventually experienced left shoulder pain and ultimately learned it was not my shoulder at all, but pinched nerves that run through the c-spine and down the arm. Imaging from docs at the Rothman Institute and University of Pennsylvania in Philly noted that I had no lordotic curve in my c-spine. Itís unclear if I had it but lost it, or if I was born that way. My research indicates that medical science has little to say about the effects and treatment of this condition. Despite offering to cut me up, the doc at U of P did say to keep training and get strong (shocking, I know). About 10% of babies are born with a straight c-spine, also known as ďmilitary neck,Ē which often goes into kyphosis, but mine has not. I was delivered breech, so who knows what crazy protocol in 1972 they followed to turn, pull, and yank me into this world after I so inauspiciously showed up ass first. Maybe they messed up my neck. While the cause remains unknown, now I have to deal with it.

    I grew up moving furniture, hauling trash, and doing interior demo in my fatherís businesses. I joined the Army at 18 and served 5 years. Raised three kids. This condition has never significantly gotten in my way. However, in hindsight I think I can attribute some headaches with nausea to this condition, and I fín hate roller coasters! Also my arms will go a bit numb and Iíll get tingly fingers if I sit or sleep funny. Overall, I also think this may affect my form, and therefore force production potential in the gym, but Iím sure I can find workarounds, if this is even truly affecting me in such a way.

    I was the unfortunate recipient of a copy of Arnoldís Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding when I was 12, and quickly took the bus to the Y to start a long career of F-arounditis, rather than actually getting strong. I remember a beastly motor sergeant in Korea offering to teach me to deadlift. I eschewed such old fashioned training in order get jacked and cut. I also remember him saying, ďYou look a lot stronger than you are.Ē Ouch. While I should have listened to Sergeant Jenks (who looked like The Thing), at least Iím here now. He was right, Iíve never been as strong as Iíd like to be, and I wonder if, besides having followed bad training protocols, my straight c-spine has somehow affected my ability to get strong. So my goal is to put on a few pounds to improve my leverages and see how strong I can get before I hit 50. To that end, I seek some solid guidance from the Starting Strength staff to stay safe and maximize my efforts.

    Thank you for your time.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2012
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    This is not something you need to worry about or make any training modifications for. I would reattempt to bench without the cushion under your head a few more times. There is a very good chance the naseau you experienced was completely unrelated to benching. If it persists use the cushion. Just keep trying to follow the program to the best of your ability, and if you have the opportunity to get some coaching don't hesitate.

  3. #3
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    OK. Iím sticking to the program. Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Your welcome!

  5. #5
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    Nick,

    So that old pain is back, the one I thought was shoulder pain years ago and revealed my c-spine issue. It radiates down my left trap and through the left shoulder. Left side only, and only upon use, not resting. Something thatís telling is that it hurts when I cough or sneeze because that tenses all of the neck muscles, which I believe interacts with a slightly bulging C4 -C6 discs. I donít believe any of the moves trained in the program really put pressure on it except deadlifting (benching puts a bit of compression). Please tell me if Iím off base here, but as soon as my deadlift approached 250 lbs I started getting the pain. While deadlifts are not an arm exercise and a properly tensioned grip and neutral back initiating a push off the floor should not theoretically tax the arms, physics says that if you are holding something along the lines of double body weight or greater in your armsóeven when locked in tightlyóthrough gravity it is going to pull down on your shoulder girdle, notably the levators and traps, which then compress the soft material around your cervical spine. This may not be a big deal if you have a good lordotic curve and the weight is distributed and supported as designed (a curve is stronger support than a straight line in engineering). However, with a completely straight cervical spine that compression has only one way to go, straight down, and the pressure builds into the lowest discs (C4-C6). So while deadlifting is one of my favorites, I believe it to be the source of my c-spine inflammation. Iím going away for 4 days so Iíll have some time off, but when I get back I may progress through the program using the app and skip the deadlifts for 3 weeks to see how I am.

    Overall, what do you think of my shoulder girdle theory and experiment to eliminate deadlifts for a short while? Do you think any of the other exercises in the training could put as significant a strain on the cervical spine as deadlifts?

    Thank you,
    JZK

  6. #6
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    I'm going to speak in generalities here to make the discussion more applicable to other people on the board. I think it's okay when someone has a flare-up to let things calm down before starting to build them back up again. For people where I think that strategy is the best approach, I usually keep the calm down phase to 1-2 weeks long. In general, I believe that focusing on complex biomechanical narratives to explain a pain experience is more detrimental than beneficial. It takes control away from you and is usually just a small part of a much bigger picture. It is important to note that the presence of pain does not mean inflammation. All the presence of pain means is that the painful area might be in danger. Pain emerges as a result of more things than just the compression in your c-spine. In this scenario, a big driver is going to be your beliefs about your c-spine, your bulging discs, and deadlifts. Continually focusing on the things you can't control is going to lower your danger threshold so you start experiencing pain quicker and while doing less intense things.

    Focusing on what you can control and tweak to continue training is much more beneficial. The tweaking to what you are doing can be in the form of intensity, volume, frequency, rate of progression, technique, ROM, exercise selection, etc. Knowing that your discs can adapt to the stresses placed on them and that you as a whole person can become more resilient through strength training is what lets you break free of this cycle.

    For this particular situation, I would take time off when you are on vacation, start deadlifting again at a slightly lower intensity where the symptoms are not present (say 225ish) and decrease the rate of progression to 1x/week. Take the mindset when you have symptoms that you need to manage the loading to the area better, not that you need to eliminate the loading. I hope some of this helps.

  7. #7
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    Good stuff. I greatly appreciate the advice not to get wrapped around the axle about something that in reality may not even be occurring, or is part of a greater set of complex factors that are out of my span of control. Definitely need to get out of my head and under the bar. I really like the idea that the discs will adapt to stress placed on them, and while Iíve been doing this, I lost sight of it, but will reorient to make it my grounding principle. Great advice, as expected from Starting Strength coaches and staff. Thanks again.

  8. #8
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    starting strength coach development program
    Your welcome! Keep in mind that rehab is a process and you will probably have to reorient yourself a few times throughout it.

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