Cervical lordosis is a curve in the cervical spine, the area of the spine which contains the neck vertebrae. This curve is entirely normal and, in fact, desirable because it helps to stabilize the head and spine…but when the curve straightens out, becomes too deep, or faces in the wrong direction, it can become a problem. There are several treatments available for loss of cervical lordosis, with treatment being supervised by a medical professional who specializes in spinal care.
In a healthy spine, the cervical lordosis looks like a very wide C, with the C pointing toward the back of the neck. This can begin to straighten in a condition called cervical kyphosis, in which the curve straightens up or even bows in the other direction. Sometimes this is referred to as “reverse lordosis,” referencing the fact that the spine is still curved, but the curve is now running in the wrong direction.
What Causes Variations In The Cervical Lordosis?
There are several factors that are known to cause variations in the healthy cervical lordosis. In many cases, it is an inherited condition. It can also be caused by injury and/or trauma, stress and strain to the neck. In most instances, cervical lordosis is caused by neglecting to maintain good posture. Osteoporosis, which is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time (often found in the neck region), is also a cause of cervical lordosis. Obesity has been known to cause cervical lordosis as well. Obesity can affect the body’s balance and center by offering a weight and strain to the body that is unnatural so the body is ill-equipped to support and maintain proper posture.
How Is It Treated?
The earlier the problem is caught, the more treatment options are available and the less likely complications will be. Alterations to normal cervical lordosis can be diagnosed by a physician after completing a physical exam complete with X-rays or MRI’s.
Those with cervical lordosis may want to consider chiropractic and physical therapy to assist with regaining proper posture. These treatments strengthen the spine and are proven to work. Other items that are helpful include support pillows for sleeping (to stabilize the neck), special traction wedges (for use at home to correct the curve), and orthotics (to maintain proper posture when standing or walking).
For some patients, it may be necessary to perform surgery. Surgery for spinal fusion can address abnormal curvature by fusing the cervical vertebrae so that they cannot drift out of place, for example. Surgery is generally considered as a last resort because it can be risky, and the patient may experience permanent lifestyle changes afterwards. Fusion, for example, makes it difficult to turn the head and may make people vulnerable to injury because the spine loses some of its flexibility and elasticity.
So Why Do We Need These Curves In Our Spine? How Is It Harmful To The Body If They Are Abnormal?
1. A straight cervical spine loses its ability to absorb shock. This puts extra pressure on the disc and causes it to break down faster. Over time, this will cause the individual vertebrae (bones in the neck) to break down. The medical term for this problem is called degenerative joint disease (DJD), degenerative disc disease (DDD), or osteoarthritis. The word disease is used to imply that the problem is progressive in nature unless something is done to stop or reverse it.
DDD and DJD can be very painful conditions that cause stiffness, pins and needles, tingling and/or numbness. Some individuals are asymptomatic too (ie: they have no symptoms), and may not discover the condition until it has become quite serious. Early detection is critical to prevent you from ever having to go to pain management or worse, surgery.
2. The lack of cervical spine curvature causes tension on the spinal cord and carotid arteries as they ascend into the brain to feed it oxygen and nutrients. This can cause dizziness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, tinnitus, pain, nervousness, insomnia, high blood pressure, and confusion, just to name a few.
3. The lack of cervical curve causes people to go out of spine alignment quicker. Therefore, you will experience more pain and discomfort which means you’ll need to see your chiropractor more often.
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If you feel you might be suffering from unhealthy variations in your cervical lordosis, I hope you will contact me to schedule an evaluation. To learn more about me and my practice, I invite you to visit my clinic’s web site at www.decompressionforyourback.com.