Can you Lift Weights With A Herniated Disc in the Neck?

Can I lift weights with a herniated disc in the neck? I have two herniated discs in my neck and the first time I found out, I wondered the same thing. I’m an active athlete and got this injury from training and my main worry was I would never be able to train again. So just like you, I got online and researched to find out more. Now after researching and living with this issue for years, going to doctors and physical therapy, I want to share with you all of my knowledge!

Can I lift weights with a herniated disc in the Neck?

I am glad to tell you, the answer is yes! Not only is exercise recommended but it is also required to help keep the muscles in the neck and spine strong. After speaking to your doctor and the pain has reduced, you should focus on rebuilding the muscles around and in the neck. You will need to start very light and slowly build up as you rebuild the muscles in your neck. As your strength increases, you can begin to add repetitions and start doing more challenging exercises.

What is a Herniated Disc in the Neck?

lift weights with a herniated disc in the neck cervical herniation picture

A herniated disc in the neck, also often called cervical herniation, “ruptured disc” or a “slipped disk” is something known and feared by many people, but you may not have to worry too much about it, because there are many cases where it isn’t the end of all things. Many people, including myself, live their daily lives just fine with herniated discs and many people don’t notice it much, or at all.

Think of a disc herniation like a jelly donut, if you press on the center, the jelly comes out the side. This is the perfect analogy for disc herniation. If you compress a disc, sometimes the nucellus will come out of the side walls and cause herniation or “the jelly” on the outer walls.

Basically, if the discs get compressed, the gel between them will poke out, this is what herniation is. Just use the donut analogy and think of a disc herniation as a jelly donut whose filling has squirted out. When this happens, you can expect pain, numbness, tingling and many other symptoms to begin occurring. They will be noticeable, especially if your case is severe and I recommend making an appointment with your doctor to find the best treatment plan for you to handle this situation and get you back to your normal daily life.

If you want more information on this, I suggest checking out this site, they have great and detailed information that has helped educate me over these years and I want to recommend them to all of you so you can learn as much as you can on this subject and hopefully it will help improve your lives as it did with my life too!

What causes a Herniated Disc in the Neck?

bad neck habits herniated disc in the neck

So what causes this to happen? Lets go over a few things that can cause a herniated disc in the neck because it is very important to understand how this happened so we  can prevent it from happening again or getting worse in the future!

It is hard to figure out exactly what could have caused a herniated cervical disc, which is why I always recommend going to a doctor right away to get an even better idea. Also I recommend thinking about your daily life, habits, and hobbies. 

Of course, sometimes there is no clear reason why a herniated disc in the neck happened. But sometimes you can narrow it down to the reasons below:

Athletic Activates

This was the reason for my herniations. Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and many of the other disciplines within Mixed Martial Arts is how I got my disc herniation. I just wasn’t being careful enough or  taking care of myself enough. This can also include other sports you may practice, or running, or even lifting weights. Any physical activity counts. Try to think if this is your cause too.

Bad Posture

Slouching, sitting in a hunched over position looking down or up all day at a screen, such as a monitor or phone can cause a herniated disc in the neck to happen. Are you spending most of your day at an office job, on a computer, on your phone, or just have bad posture in general? I suggest paying attention to your posture and keeping good posture in mind, as it could be the reason you are experiencing a herniated disc in the neck.


This is a common cause, many people will experience some sort of herniation, even if its a herniated disc in the neck, due to aging. As you age, the discs in your body can become more prone to herniating due to wear and tear. When you’re younger, the discs have much more water in them, but as you get older, the water decreases. Less water means they will become less flexible. So that means if you move, twist, or turn it can cause herniation, including a herniated disc in the neck.

Accident or Sudden Strain

I put this in the same category because accidents are also sudden strains. Car crashes obviously can cause a herniated disc in the neck, due to the sudden jerk reaction. Also this applies to work or normal life, if you lift or move something heavy too quickly, you can damage a disc. So use this to think about any possible times in the past that you may have had any of these occur, because these can be the reason you are experiencing a herniated disc in the neck.

What should I do if I have a Herniated Disc in my Neck?

First thing to do, contact your doctor, work with your doctor to get a treatment plan to help you deal with the herniated disc in the neck. I suggest taking this serious until you find out from your doctor otherwise. Usually they will recommend physical therapy, as they did with me. They will very slowly build back up the strength in your neck and try to get you back to your normal life.

Initially when you experience a cervical herniated disc in the neck, your doctor may recommend you just to rest your neck for a few days up to a week to reduce the inflammation. You may be experiencing nerve spasms and pain and that will make exercising difficult. I know this was the case with me and even after resting and healing, when I tried to do some exercises, I had nerve spasms and lost most of my mobility in my neck for a few days. We will go into the exercises soon.

I know it can be stressful to just sit around and do nothing, but trust me, it will only become worse if you try to rush back into exercising. I made this mistake more times than I can count on even both of my hands. Just relax and listen to your doctor so you can handle this herniated disc in the neck. Once you’ve gone through physical therapy or did anything else your doctor recommend, we can discuss exercising with a herniated disc in the neck.

During and after physical therapy I suggest including some safe neck stretches into your routine, I suggest the neck stretching article below to help you get started.

Top 5 Best Neck Stretches for Neck Pain Relief

How can I exercise safely?

herniated disc in the neck sit ups

Once your herniated disc in the neck has became less painful and your neck has healed a bit you can start thinking about exercising. Hopefully you’ve done a bit of physical therapy or listened to your doctor and you’ve gotten the “okay” from them to slowly get back into lifting weight or exercising in general.

Here is my number 1 recommendation for lifting weights or exercising in generation with a herniated disc in the neck.


Barbell Shrugs, Dumbbell Shrugs, any Shrugs! Be careful!!

Overhead Press, Military Press, any kind of pressing, BE CAREFUL!!

When doing any kind of neck exercise, with or without weights, if it involves the muscles around the neck, please do them very slowly and make sure the weight is much lighter than you normally use.

I have done tons of Barbell Shrugs and Overhead Presses with a herniated disc and every time I tried to push for an extra rep or lifted too quickly with too much weight, I got a nerve spasm in my neck and one time, it happened when I had the barbell lifted over my head, luckily I didn’t drop it. Please, if you have a herniated disc in the neck, be very careful with any neck exercises.

Each time I had a muscle spasm due to my herniated disc in the neck, my neck became stiff and I lost almost all of my ability to turn my head left or right, it took a week, sometimes more to finally regain full mobility. So please, if you’re doing these exercises, be careful. What I had to do is figure out a good way to lift the weights without it bothering the discs in my neck too much, after I figured this out, lifting became much easier.

This will be different for everyone, depending on their situation, how their herniated disc in the neck is and what their situation is like. Start extremely light and slow and just see how your body reacts, if you are bothering the discs in your neck when you lift, either try to slightly change the form to fit your situation due to the herniated disc in the neck or just stop the exercise all together. You can substitute the exercise if needed.

As for some exercises you can do to maintain your neck health, I suggest the article below, as it will go into great detail on good exercises to maintain neck health and make it stronger!

Top 5 Best Neck Exercises for Neck Pain Relief


So like I said earlier, yes you can lift weights with a herniated disc in the neck. If you’re going to lift, please be very careful, and first see a doctor to go through their recommendations. Don’t just ignore the disc herniation or try to tough it out like I did, it can cause more harm than good. I have a habit of toughing things out and sometimes that can get us in more trouble than anything. So see a doctor, go to physical therapy if needed, then slowly start lifting weights again.

Judge how your body feels and how it feels for you to lift weights with a herniated disc in the neck, adjust your exercises and routine as needed. This will produce best results, you don’t need to stop working out and lifting weights because of a herniate disc in the neck. At most, you may have to just change your methods a little bit.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *