Neck pain has become a major health issue not just in industrial countries but all around the world. Some sources say 70% of the adult population suffers from neck pain every year. In adults, chronic neck pain tends to last at least six to 15 months. In regards to prevalence, 40% of people over 40 have neck pain, with about 5% disabling severity.
A healthy posture causes your spine to curve in an S-shaped pattern. In the absence of pain or impairment, you can sit, stand, walk, and move with good spinal alignment. Do you know that your normal spinal curvature can be altered over time by sedentary living, constant sitting, and the use use of electronic devices?
In this article, we are going to discuss and learn more about the importance of a healthy posture, what is cervical lordosis, what causes loss of cervical lordosis, and what are the symptoms and treatment options to restore the neck’s natural curve.
What is cervical lordosis?
As the name implies, cervical lordosis refers to the natural curve of the spine in the neck. Healthy spines are shaped like an “S” from top to bottom, while healthy cervical spines are shaped like a gentle “C”.
A healthy curve in the spine maintains stability and structure and absorbs shocks. It also keeps the weight of the head aligned with the body and allows the neck to move and bend normally.
In the absence of these curves, several body issues can occur. A loss of cervical lordosis can result in the neck becoming abnormally straight, increasing the chance of developing forward head posture and adverse spinal tension. A loss of cervical lordosis means the spinal column in the neck loses its healthy c-shaped curvature and becomes straighter, or the curve can be reversed, known as a ‘reverse curve’.
Causes of loss of cervical lordosis
Traumatic neck injuries (e.g. car accidents) may directly straighten our cervical spine and are one of the main causes but other factors may also contribute.
Nowadays, most people spend hours each week hunched over their handheld devices, which has all but thrown away the advice to “sit up straight.” Poor posture can lead to neck and lower back injuries and pains. It also increases the spine’s risk for injuries. Let us remember that, the entire spinal column, like the entire body, is interconnected, and if one area of the spine is stressed, other areas may try to compensate.
The loss of cervical lordosis may also be caused by inherited diseases such as achondroplasia (dwarfism) or other neuromuscular disorders. Age can also cause problems with spine curves, so regular spine maintenance is essential as you progress in age.
Symptoms of loss of cervical lordosis
The loss of cervical lordosis is extremely common among individuals. The only sign of neck changes is usually the spine or neck sway back is the visible curve that is not compressing the nerve and vertebral. When observing your posture in a mirror or looking at your profile in a picture, you may be able to detect subtle changes to your neck’s lordotic curve. However, you may not be able to detect them directly.
The following are some common signs and symptoms of loss of cervical lordosis:
- Pain in the neck and upper back
- Headaches or migraines that occur frequently
- Experiencing fatigue
- Muscle tension
- Dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
It is imperative to keep in mind that not everyone experiences profound symptoms as a result of changes in neck curvature. There can be subtle changes, like a reduction in neck range of motion or physical performance.
Conditions that are associated with the loss of cervical lordosis
Many people have lost the good curve in their neck, yet do not currently experience any pain or symptoms. A non-good curve in your neck does not guarantee you will suffer from neck pain; however, it increases the chances that you will suffer from neck pain in the future.
Here are other conditions that you may experience:
Tense and aching muscles
As the head curves are reduced, the pressure on the disc increases as is the tension on the spinal cord. The neck muscles tighten, forcing harder work with the head to support it. Imagine carrying a large grocery box behind you in your hands instead of keeping it close to your body. When the good curve of the neck is gone, the head moves forward, and the weight increases. The human body adapts and continues to function this way for a while, and this adds pressure to the bones which causes them to deform faster than usual.
Problems with ligaments and spinal discs
As a person grows older with a curved neck the ligament or disc shape begins to change. Ligaments or discs are connected between bones. They help prevent bones from moving apart and communicate with brains the place they sit. Ligaments are plastic and have a deformation capacity when exposed to constant pressures. Muscles can stretch or contract and return to their original form with no permanent change or damage. However, as ligaments and discs change form it is easier to restore a straight line.
Is this condition serious?
Most cases of loss of cervical lordosis are mild with few symptoms. If there is no way of treating this condition the situation can worsen with time. Eventually, these can cause pain or long-lasting discomfort.
Other risks include:
The neck is more vulnerable to injuries due to muscle weakness and instability. This increases the risk of spinal injuries caused when an accident occurs on the road. The abnormal curve causes spinal strain which increases pressure on the spinal discs causing degeneration of vertebrae. These may cause bulges or herniated discs and may cause cervical stenosis and cervical myelopathy.
Treatments for loss of cervical lordosis
When you ignore changes in your cervical spine for a long time, it will be more difficult to reverse them. It may become more difficult to restore your neck’s normal curve as your ligaments and discs begin to change shape over time. The loss of cervical lordosis increases your risk of irreversible damage or disability in a car crash or other trauma. Your neck alignment affects your entire spine, which makes you more likely to experience back pain and reduces your athletic ability.
Here are a few things that you can do to get the natural curve back in your neck:
Laptops, tablets, and cell phones all compromise neutral spinal alignment. The cervical spine can distribute the weight of the head evenly throughout the joints when the head is aligned with the spine and directly over the shoulders. By doing so, we are able to maintain our neck’s natural curve.
Chiropractors specialize in musculoskeletal health. Thus, they are well-equipped to diagnose and treat spinal and neck issues. Chiropractors have many cervical spine tools at their disposal to restore your neck’s natural curve. These include:
- Supplements, diet, exercise, and posture advice
- Ultrasound technology
- Cold laser therapy
- TENS devices (low-level electrical stimulation of muscles)
Identifying the underlying cause of neck pain
Do neck injuries persist with no apparent end in sight? I’m feeling stiff neck muscles, is it really uncomfortable? Both can affect your neck curve. We have to go deeper into this matter. We need a thorough assessment. Neck pain or neck spasms cannot be diagnosed. Instead, it is a symptom of deeper causes. They are warnings!
Restoring the natural curve of the neck can be achieved through physical therapy. There are a variety of treatment options available, including neutral spinal alignment, range of motion, strengthening exercises, trigger point injections, and muscle manipulation and activation.
Another option is massage therapy or the use of massage devices at home. The muscles around your neck and shoulder are massaged and manipulated to restore the natural curvature of your neck. By doing this, tension is reduced. As tension decreases, other therapies (such as chiropractic) become more effective. As an added benefit, it helps improve posture as well.
Heat and cold therapy
Many chiropractors prescribe heat and cold therapy for chiropractic issues, although it is not usually used alone. Chiropractors typically recommend alternately utilizing heat and cold pads. For 20 minutes, either one is applied to a particular area (in this case the neck). To apply the second one, you must wait anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. Using the two techniques can reduce inflammation and pain and open up blood vessels so that nutrients and oxygen can flow to where they are needed.
Limit screen time
Digital devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones require prolonged use (screen time), resulting in muscle fatigue and poor posture. These can cause your neck to lose its natural curve. It is important to take periodic breaks.
Maintaining a normal neck curve requires proper chair and desk height adjustment. Monitors should be at eye level or slightly below. Adjust your chair so that your feet rest flat on the ground.
When counteracting the effect of deteriorating spines, diet is a longer-term solution. By improving your diet, you can slow down spinal degeneration or even strengthen your spine. These foods are worth considering: figs, bok choy, pumpkin seeds, green beans, salmon, etc.
Using the right pillow is another way to restore your neck’s natural curve. Sleeping on the wrong pillow will cause your head to be tilted in the wrong direction. A stiff neck greets you when you wake up. You will also experience worsening symptoms of curvature because of a stiff neck. Research and testing are necessary to determine which pillow is right for you, as one pillow might not work for everyone.
Other treatment options
Cervical spines are complicated. The arterial blood route from the heart to the brain must run through and over vertebral bones and neckbones and the vast brain networks are also required to map out the path from the brain to the body. Whenever the cervical spine starts to deteriorate cervical spine starts to drop off the spine and become inflamed with the blood vessels. The vein arteries get shortened and stretch and causing a stenosis similar to reduced blood flow. Some veins and arteries are compressed causing reduced blood flow.
A conservative treatment is usually the best treatment. These include physiotherapy, massage, chiropractor care, and stretching. If this type of therapy does not help reduce pain or increase function, the doctor will recommend a specialist. Your orthopedic doctor will give you three treatment options: steroid injections or surgeries.
In teenagers who are unable to grow fully braces can also serve as a useful therapy. The curvature can thus be controlled. Bracing is often not effective when a baby’s spine is growing or has become less flexible. In the cases of severe curvatures and the case of nerve compression, surgery should be considered. The surgical method is based on the patient’s age and general health and the cause for this curve in its original form.