Top 5 Risks to Loss of Neck Curve

Neck PainYour spine has normal curves that are critical for proper function.  Curves in the spine are necessary to help distribute gravitational stress, and loss of these curves has significant consequences.  There are two types of normal curves in the spine when viewed from the side:  kyphotic curves (backward curves) and lordotic curves (forward curves).  You are born with kyphotic curves, but lordotic curves form after birth during the time that we begin to crawl or learning to walk.  These curves are critical to proper function of the spine.  Our topic today will focus on the lordotic neck curve.

Did you know that you can lose the proper lordotic curve in the neck?  There are various degrees of loss on the way to becoming fully straightened (no curve).  You can even reverse the curve in your neck!  The loss of the neck curve often manifests with various signs and symptoms.

Let’s talk about the top 5 risks associated with the loss of this curve in the neck.

  1. Loss of shock absorption
    The kyphotic and lordotic curves in the spine help redistribute compressive forces forward and backward and not just up & down.  Loss of this shock absorption capacity predisposes an individual to injury.
  2. Increased pressure on the spinal discs
    When the normal neck curve is reduced, compressive disc forces increase.  The greater the loss of curve in the neck, the higher the compressive forces.  A consequence of this straightening is disc thinning.
  3. Numbness, tingling, burning, and/or muscle weakness
    As mentioned above, straightening of the cervical curve will lead to disc thinning.  Disc thinning will reduce the opening where the nerves that travel into the arms and hands from the spine exit.  Nerves do not like to be compressed, and this compression will often manifest as one or more of the following in the arms or hands:  pain, numbness, tingling, burning, and/or muscle weakness.
  4. A very common complaint of those with straightening of the neck curve is headaches
    Why?  Straightening of the neck curve places unusual high demand on the muscles in the back of the neck and upper back.  This creates muscle tension that can lead to a certain type of headache called cervicogenic headache.
  5. Stiff and painful neck, shoulders, and upper back
    For the same reasons that lead to headaches with this condition, the same muscle tension leads to painful and fatiguing neck, shoulders, and upper back.  Given the passage of time, this condition often worsens and begins to affect quality of life.

The causes for loss of curve in the neck are many and varied.  From clinical experience, we often see loss of neck curve correlated with previous trauma in a person’s life, such as a rear-end automobile collision or a significant fall.  Regardless of the underlying cause, the signs and symptoms listed above should not be ignored.  There is help, and an evaluation at our clinic would be advisable.  Conditions such as this, when left to the passage of time, will often worsen.  The passage of time will make the condition more challenging to treat and accelerate the degenerative changes associated with loss of neck curve.

This condition is treated often in our clinic with excellent results.  Make an appointment today to be evaluated.

-Dr. Ryan Roth