I had some X-rays done on my neck after injuring it for the second time playing rugby, and they reveal I have a mild subluxation of C4/5 (not sure from old injury or new injury). And I've been advised by two physios to NEVER play contact sport again! The ironic thing about it is I have always wanted to play professional rugby, and I got an email last week to see if I would be interested in playing rugby in Japan. What can I do to give myself the greatest chance of full recovery? Whether I go back to rugby or not, I would like it to be my choice, not a physios.
First of all, if you were to have every professional rugby player submit to an MRI of their neck or low back and show the findings to a panel of orthopedic or neurosurgeons, chances are very good that they would say that about 70 percent of them should stop playing rugby immediately!
There is a very big gap between what you see on imaging studies and functional reality. That said, it isn't a good idea to ignore the findings of any qualified medical professional. What is a good idea is to realize that Mother Nature has just served you a situation. She is saying, "young man, you have a neck in less than optimal condition. Now get your act together so you can play some good rugby!"
I have rehabilitated several world class athletes from neck injuries that were "career ending" as far as physicians and physios were concerned. Surely each medical professional makes the best judgment they can with the training and experience they have, yet, the body is a very comprehensive and wonderful organism and unless the treating professional has a good grasp of how to treat an athlete holistically, they are likely to have partial vision with regard to your prospects...your view is only as expansive as your training, and thus your thinking!
To prepare you adequately would require a comprehensive evaluation of your diet, lifestyle factors and your musculoskeletal system. With this information in hand, a very comprehensive corrective exercise, diet and lifestyle program can be produced for you. Your comments below, indicating that you have a "mild subluxation of C4/5" are very vague. Subluxations or spinal instabilities are commonly objectified in grades ranging from 1-4. Once you pass grade II, impingement on the central nervous system or a spinal nerve root become a likely prospect and by the time you are a grade III subluxation/instability, impingement is almost assured.
While there is not much I can do for you without actually having you in my hands, there are many things you can do for yourself. Here are my suggestions:
- Read my "Shrug Science" article on PTontheNET.com. It will teach you a lot about the neck.
- Determine exactly what grade your subluxation/instability is. Once that is known, you could either take your X-rays and other scans to one of the C.H.E.K Practitioners in in your area; it will need to be a C.H.E.K Practitioner Level 3 and should also be at least an NLC 1. You can look on my web site to find who may be able to assist you but Mark Buckley in Dunedin or John Biggaton in Sydney are likely candidates. If you want to get the very best assistance and maximize your chances of a full and optimal return to rugby, I suggest you come to California or New York and see any of my personal assistants, who all have the skill to handle a case such as yours. Your options in this regard are: Chris Maund, Janet Alexander or Suzi Nevell (N.Y. Suzi is an NZ trained physio with an advanced degree in manipulation from Australia, an acupuncturist and a C.H.E.K Instructor, trained by me personally! She also has an excellent gym facility in New York. The others can handle your case as well and are both trained by me for over five years).
- Study my book "How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!" and my audio CD program titled "You Are What You Eat!" These programs will teach you how to choose the quality of foods you need and eat in the right proportions for your specific metabolic type. This is critical for you because:
- ligaments are very responsive to testosterone:estrogenic balance, which is often disturbed by eating nonorganic foods, microwave cooked foods, particularly if they are cooked in any plastic containers, and consuming water and foods wrapped and stored in plastics. In addition, many of the chemicals sprayed on food and in food are "estrogenic", meaning they either have estrogen like chemicals as agents or they disrupt hormonal balance, which easily leads to weakening and laxity of ligaments; think of what a female's ligaments do when pregnant or even premenstrual and consider that too much estrogenic compounds in any male produces similar effects on the ligaments.
- Your ligaments are only as good as the food you eat! About 1942, there was a book written called "The Hawley Experiment". The author was Lady Eve Balfour and this book documented the longest study (21 years) ever run comparing commercial vs organic foods and farming. In that book, you can find reference to a school in Auckland, NZ (Mt. Albert). Observations of the Mt. Albert boy's school (then a private school) showed that when they followed Sir Albert Howard's method of composting (the Indoor method) and began farming their own food organically instead of feeding the kids from the local shops, they not only had a noticeable reduction in colds, flus, visits to the nurse...they noted (this is the part for you!) “...that there was a significant reduction in injury among the rugby players, who's ligaments seemed to be much tougher..." That organic foods and meats can dramatically influence your ligaments for the better can easily be proven by the use of a simple test I devised to demonstrate to my students and patients that "You Are What You Eat!" Simply go to the store and buy one chicken that is commercially farmed and one that is organic free-range. Cook them both in the oven at the same time. When done, simply remove and let cool till you can handle. Then, cut off a leg with thigh attached from each of the two birds. Now, with the thigh in your left hand and the drumstick in your right hand, try to snap the cruciate ligaments and joint capsule of the chicken's knee and pay special attention to how much effort it takes to break the knee of a commercial chicken vs. the organic free-range chicken...you will be BLOWN AWAY BY HOW TOUGH AN ORGANIC FREE RANGE BIRD'S LIGAMENTS ARE – even after being cooked! Needless to say, after 21 years of rehabilitating athletes from ligament injures (and the rest!) and converting as many as possible to organic foods, I can tell you comfortably the same will be true of your ligaments. Therefore, if you want to improve cervical stability, IMPROVE YOUR LIGAMENT STRENGTH!
- Make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of high quality water (type and hardness are described in my above sited works). If you multiply your weight by .30, you will get the number of liters you should drink daily. It is CRITICAL that you keep adequately hydrated as an athlete with an injured spine, one of the places your body goes to scavenge water to protect your brain and nervous system is your spinal discs and cartilage! Another critical factor along these lines is to cut out drinking alcohol and/or coffee, both of which are powerful dehydrating agents! If you don't feel you can cut them out (how bad do you want to achieve your potential??) then dramatically reduce their consumption and make sure you are chasing such drinks with water. Additionally, NEVER drink alcohol or coffee/espresso on an empty stomach or your hormonal system will be trashed, again having a negative effect on your ligaments! If you are going to drink such beverages, always go for the organic products because the pesticide residues and commercial additives are particularly heavy in beer and alcohol drinks, which coffee being one of the most heavily sprayed crops (pesticides) in the world; many pesticides are estrogenic, meaning that they jack the estrogen levels through the roof in anything they touch (bugs and humans!), stopping normal reproduction...and altering your ligaments if you get the stuff in you!
- Recognize that your low back and your neck are intimately related. Therefore, if you have any problems or history of problems with your back, you will also have to address those with the neck to get a good, long-term response in your cervical spine.
- If you have access to a skilled reflexologist, acupuncturist, or iridologist, you can have them assess you to see if you have any organ reflexes coming from your liver, stomach, pancreas, thymus, heart, lungs, diaphragm, thyroid or parathyroid, as these organs all reflex to the neck and interscapular region, therefore influencing cervical stability secondarily. Completing the questionnaires in my book will direct you to the chapters that educate you on how to get healthy on the inside as well and seeing any of my NLC 2 or NLC 3 practitioners will allow you an extremely comprehensive assessment of diet and lifestyle factors – as well as organs and hormones, which are critical components to your overall program.
- In my book, "The Golf Biomechanic's Manual," there are cervical stabilization exercises. They will be helpful to you now. You may also want to find a physiotherapist trained by Gwen Jull (She's at Queensland University, Australia) and have them teach you to use a blood pressure cuff to activate and condition your deep cervical flexors. The deep cervical flexors are essential to stabilizing your cervical vertebra and few people know how to condition them correctly. If you contact the physiotherapy department at the Australian Institute of Sport and speak to "Flo (her last name is Gustlag but I don't know how to spell it correctly?)", Tony Bond or Ari Hakannen, they will be able to help you directly or suggest someone to you.
This information is the best I can do from a distance. If you end up in Japan, you are fortunate to be able to have follow up conditioning because one of my C.H.E.K Level III practitioners owns a gym in Tokyo, Japan. His name is Jeff Leibengood, and you can get his contact details from my web site: http://www.chekinstitute.com. Good luck!