Caution: neck rolls and stretches during yoga

Writing in Yoga Journal, Julie Gudmestad says, “There are 2 concerns to keep in mind when working with neck positioning in yoga.”

Here’s the “what” and “why” of it.

Impeding either the circulation to the brain or the nerve pathways from the neck can lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can result in numbness, weakness, and pain down the arm.

Ms. Gudmestad explains that problems arise when the cervical spine starts to develop “normal” degenerative changes, which can occur as early as the mid-thirties. The discs become “narrow and dry out, the little facet joints develop wear-and-tear arthritis, and the intervertebral foramen (the canal in which the nerve root exits the spine) become smaller.”

With these degenerative changes, certain neck positions can compress or pinch the nerve, causing pain, numbness, and weakness wherever that nerve travels to in the arm. These symptoms can be mild and temporary or severe and persistent, requiring medical treatment.

The bottom line?
For more about risky yoga positions and what to do about it, read the article.

Ms. Gudmestad doesn’t discuss the prevalence of these injuries. However, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 3,700 yoga-related injuries treated in doctors’ offices, clinics, and emergency rooms in 2004, incurring a total cost of approximately $94 million (€60 million).

Common yoga injuries include repetitive strain to and overstretching of the neck — as well as the shoulders, spine, legs, and knees.

3/12/08 21:24 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.