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The medical terms for a straight neck are kyphosis, lack of cervical curve, or military neck. In extreme cases one or more vertebra can tilt backward, creating a reverse neck curve. A straight neck is not a good thing and can have a number of consequences for human health.
Let’s focus on one reason a straight neck is bad—it ruins neck joints.
Why is the neck curved anyway?
In a normal healthy state, the human neck has a forward curve, which develops early-on in life. The spine of a baby is shaped like a letter “C.” As the baby begins to hold up his or her head, the weight of the head stimulates the development of neck muscles which put a curve into the neck.
Curves are an important part of the anatomy of the spine. They help support the weight of your body. They also cushion the spine and protect the delicate nervous system inside of the spinal column.
Reduced spinal curves affect your health.
As the neck looses its curve, it can affect how you feel. A straight neck or a reversed cervical curve is often found on patients who have:
- whiplash injuries,
- chronic headache pains,
- mild to serious neck pain,
- and disc disease (including bulging and herniated discs) in the neck.
Straight neck is often accompanied by a forward head, a problem called forward head syndrome, or forward head posture. According to experts in biomechanics (the study of the movement of the body) a forward head can put as much as ten pounds of extra pressure on the spine for every inch the head moves forward of the shoulder. A forward head can place as much as 30 extra pounds of stress on the muscles, blood vessels, lymph tracks, nerves, and joints of the neck and upper shoulders.
Why do straight necks inflame neck joints?
The major anatomy of most of the joints of the neck include the vertebrae, the disc between the vertebra, and the “shingle” shaped joints which line up at the back of the neck, called facet joints.
In a normal adult spine, the facet joints of the neck are larger than the joints created by the vertebrae and the intervertebral disc. The facet joints are larger because they are meant to carry most of the load of the head. This is different from other areas of the spine, like the lower back, where the disc and the vertebra are larger because they carry more weight.
As the neck begins to straighten, and the curve becomes smaller, the weight of the head shifts from the facet joints at the back, to the cervical disc. This causes two problems
- The discs in the neck begin to carry more weight than they are supposed to. In time this causes the discs to break-down and degenerate, causing arthritis. This is often why disc disease starts at the front of the disc in the neck, and not the back.
- The facet joints, made to bear a majority of the weight in the neck, carry less of a load. This lighter load creates lax ligaments, allowing more movement of the individual vertebrae. As the downward force of the head moves forward, neck vertebra can even slide backward, creating a retro-flexion, and eventually a reverse cervical curve.
The result is more break-down in the joints of the neck, causing more joint inflammation, or arthritis.
The role of upper cervical chiropractic care
What options do you have for addressing the cause of your curve breakdown?
Unfortunately, there are very few health care practitioners who will take this break-down of your cervical curve serious. Most will only note the damage and tell you there is nothing you can do about it. Your upper cervical chiropractor, however, understands the prime role the health of your neck has for the rest of your spine, and your body. In many cases, natural improvements in the shape of your neck are possible with a gentle course of upper cervical chiropractic care, to help your body carry the weight of your head more efficiently.
To learn more about how our upper cervical chiropractic practice in Columbus, Ohio can help you address the arthritis and joint break-down in your neck, please contact our office.