Having disc problems doesn’t mean you can’t do Gyrotonic training.

My spine is a mess. GYROTONIC® training has been great for it, not harmful.

X-ray of my neck from 2021I was in a pretty serious car accident back in 1985. I was driving to school on a 2 lane street. My car experienced a mechanical failure and the front end collapsed onto the ground. That created a pivot point and my car turned directly into oncoming traffic. I hit one car almost directly head on, bounced off it and hit another car. My car wound up on someone's lawn. The front end of the car on the driver's side was completely smashed inward. I have no memory of the accident at all. I was driving and the next thing I know I'm being pulled out of my car by the fire department.

My head hit the upright where the windshield meets the frame and was cut severely, requiring 23 stitches in my left forehead. Both arms were badly bruised, the left from the shoulder all the way to the elbow.

I don't have any pictures of the wrecked car anymore but I did see them and I know I am very fortunate to be alive.

The injuries to my neck were the most extensive

After basic recovery I began physical therapy for my neck.  In retrospect, the treatment chosen was a poor choice considering what happened to my neck. The PT gave me a traction device that lifted my head straight up. That would make sense if my neck had been thrown backward, like a classic whiplash. Unknown to me at the time, my vertebrae had shifted forward, not backward.

I was 19 and didn't know much about bodies. Crucially, I didn't know what chiropractic was back then or I would have taken that course of treatment. A chiropractor would have looked at the alignment of my vertebrae and made efforts to return my vertebrae to a lordotic curvature.

A comparison of my cervical spine to a normal/healthy spine
The normal cervical spine on the left shows a lordotic "inward" curvature. Anatomically normal is a 14 degree curvature. That's measured from the bottom of the cervical spine (C7) to the top (C1). It curves inward, toward the midline of the body. In my neck the curvature is reversed, it is kyphotic, or "outward". The top of the cervical spine (C1) is more forward than the bottom of the  neck (C7). It's been measured at a 5 degree kyphotic curvature, meaning my neck is 19 degrees from normal.

You can also see that the spaces for the inter-vertebral discs is lessened in my neck and all the bones are misshapen from the irregular forces they've been under since 1985.

I used to have nerve issues due to my damaged neck

Many years ago, before I had even heard of Gyrotonic training, I used to have occasional numbness and tingling in both hands. This is caused by the compression of one or more nerves. It's annoying but it doesn't lead you to think you have any serious problems in your neck. But at one point, things things went from annoying to terrifying.

Once, I awoke in the middle of the night and I could not feel or move my right arm. Panic and terror were the feelings that night. It's one thing to have pins & needles, it's a completely different ballgame when you can't move your arm. I grabbed my right hand with my left and shook the arm until feeling came back. There was relief but also a long lingering feeling of "What the hell was that all about?"

Some time later, and I don't remember how far apart these two incidents were, I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't feel or move EITHER arm. Both arms were absolutely dead to me. Welcome back, panic and terror. I rolled from side to side until I could feel one arm, which was the left, then grabbed the right arm to shake it out until I could feel and move both arms again.

My whole spine got beaten up, not just my neck

X-ray of my thoracic areaWhile the damage to my neck was the most significant, my thoracic and lumbar areas were damaged as well. Of the three segments of the spine, the effect on my thoracic (the torso) was/is the least. But as you can see, that's not a straight line!

You're looking at my spine as though you were behind me, so that bend in my spine goes from left to right. That curvature makes sense since the impact was on the left side of the car. My head hit the windshield post and my body got squished to the right.

As far as I'm aware I don't have any nervous system problems/challenges because of this portion of the injury. It does affect my spinal ranges of motion, especially lateral flexion (side bends). Its easier for me to bend to the left. When I bend to the right I can feel that area of my spine just saying "Nope!" I would be really stoked if someday it released and I felt & heard a big pop and suddenly there was no more restriction. But the accident was 38 years ago, so that's not likely.

I also had nerve problems caused by compression in my lumbar spine

x-ray images of a healthy lumbar spine compared to mineI couldn't possibly describe how my car accident could cause the issues I have had in my lumbar spine. But it is also possible that the compression in the lumbar spine is a long term result of the abnormal forces caused by the neck being so badly out of place. There's really no way to know now.

Looking at the x-ray of my lumbar spine it's clear that the damages aren't as obvious as the neck or even the thoracic spine. But if you compare the image on the left, of a healthy lumbar spine, to mine, you can see a big difference in the space between the 5th lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum. But the nerve issue I had was caused by compression between L4 and L5.

Some of the nerves coming out of your lumbar spine enervate the skin from your pelvis down. Which nerves enervate which area of skin is known as a dermatome. I used to experience numbness on the skin of both thighs that match the pattern of the L4 dermatome. While it wasn't anywhere near as impactful as not being able to move my arms, it was really annoying!

Then I welcomed Gyrotonic training into my life

I didn't begin Gyrotonic training because of the nerve problems I had. What enticed me to become a trainer was how amazing it made my hip joints feel. And I've never had tight hip joints.

There were no magical "hallelujah" moments while training and learning to be a trainer. It was a slow, steady progress. Moving all my joints through all their ranges of motion, with resistance and in purposeful patterns, improved the condition of my intervertebral discs through imbibition. I was decompressing without having known that I was compressed. I remember walking into the kitchen and noticing that I could see higher over the refrigerator. My roommate at the time used to tell people that I grew 3 inches in the time we were roommates. I'm pretty sure it was only one inch, but it was a visually obvious change.

With that expansion (after all, the whole system is called the GYROTONIC® Expansion System) the nerve problems just went away. I have never had that dead arm feeling again and I don't have any numbness or tingling in my arms or hands. The skin on both thighs has normal touch sensation. After she examined the x-rays she took, the chiropractor I used to see in Atlanta said she was surprised I didn't show any signs or symptoms of nerve compression.

Every body is different of course and I'm making no promises or claims

The main thing I want to emphasize with all this is that even if you do have degenerated discs or bulging discs, it doesn't mean you can't do Gyrotonic training. I know orthopedic doctors tend towards being conservative with movement when they see disc problems and that's not a bad thing. If you have disc problems and you'd like to see if Gyrotonic training can improve your condition, definitely check with your doctor first. If they don't really know what Gyrotonic training is, refer them to the trainer you're considering working with.

If you follow the general rules of any physical training you should be fine: if it increases pain, stop; if it increases feelings of numbness and/or tingling, stop. I'm not saying stop forever, but check in with your trainer, examine the exercise choices. Maybe an exercise has to be regressed (taken back a step or two).

But movement is life. Intentional, focused movement of your spine helps keep your discs healthy. It helps keep the muscles that move and support the spine healthy. So keep moving!

HomeGYROTONIC® trainingMy neck is a mess

GYROTONIC and GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM are registered trademarks of Gyrotonic Sales Corp and is used with their permission.

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