Right Cervical Disk Herniation at C7 caused by target shooting?
Recently, I was diagnosed with a right cervical disk herniation at C7, which will require surgery (Right Anterior Cervical Discectomy with fusion). When I asked my orthopaedist & ortho-surgeon what may have caused this, their responses were that it was likely just age related degradation (I'm 56), or some traumatic injury, or as my orthopaedist stated "just luck I guess". Due to the confluence of symptoms and relatively-recent start of handgun target practice, I'm curious to know whether my new-found hobby may be the culprit.
I started handgun target practice on a regular basis about two years ago - heading to the range weekly to shoot about 100 rounds with my 9mm handgun, and about 50 rounds per week with my .22LR pistol. Coincidentally, starting about two years ago, I started noticing pain & stiffness in my neck, which I ascribed to age and arthritic changes, which grew steadily worse over the past two years. Now, in retrospect, it appears that the onset of neck pain symptoms coincided with my new hobby, and has now resulted in the disk herniation on the right side of the C7.
I've had no traumatic injury to my neck or back, except occasional lower back pain brought on by heavy lifting or working around the house. Is this merely a coincidence, or could the repetitive stress and repeated firing of my handguns (with my right hand by the way) contributed to the disk herniation, and/or neck pain symptoms?
This is not a yes or know, or clearly answerable question. The short answer is yes, but most likely not what you are thinking. The act of firing the weapon, and the effects of the weapons weight, recoil, etc, is not relevant or part of the cause. But it still gets more complicated than that: There are all kinds of factors, however, very common is the stresses on the skeletal structure due to uneven soft tissue development or strengthening. What is very likely is that you developed increased strength and stability from maintaining a firing position. However, you most likely never provided an equal work out for the opposite muscle groups. That is not just left arm versus right arm, but things like triceps versus biceps and trapezius versus deltoid, etc. This then causes added strain on the skeletal structure, which could have caused excess wear on your spine, or a sudden pull. (especially if you jerk your trigger) However, that is still not the end of it. The shooting could have merely activated dormant symptoms. Which many people don't even realize is common in spine issues, as compensation mask the underlying problem. And lastly, it can be pure coincidence. So, to continue shooting, whether you get the disk repaired or not: Strengthen your neck, back and shoulder muscles. Find an exercise regime to build the opposite muscle groups evenly, to what is being developed by your shooting. Ensure your shooting stance is correct and consistent. Whether you go with a modified weaver, or an open stance, etc. Make sure your wrist is straight, your elbows are in and down, and your stance does NOT cause you to tilt your head one way or the other. Make sure your head also is not up or down, but neutral. Never squeeze the hand grip, and never jerk the trigger. Learn to shoot left handed, and develop the left side.
So, in conclusion: Keep shooting, just do it right, for both shooting and your body. Enjoy and good luck
So, I guess, the short answer is, yes, the repetitive stress of weekly firearm practice likely DID contribute to the right, cervical disc herniation at C7.
The xrays & scans taken before and after surgery, revealed the presence of multiple disc bulges in the upper spine (pre-existing condition, or "dormant symptoms") - probably the condition of the C7 prior to the herniation - making me more prone to herniation. Logically, I must conclude that the repetitive stress of firing my pistols - localized at the right side at C7 (oddly enough the focus of recoil through my right arm and shoulder), herniated the disc. Since the other cervical vertebrae are not directly in line with my stretched-out arm and shoulder during firing, using the weaver stance, it is doubtful that continued practice will contribute to any further herniation.
However, I will be laying off practice during my post-operative recuperation, as I experienced considerable pain in my neck, shoulders and back after a weekend of shooting with my pistols, rifles and shotgun.
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