The neck curve keeps the head from falling forward. A forward head posture, or "slouching" not only looks bad, it also can limit movement, cause pain, and in extreme cases, cause paralysis or death.
Keeping the Neck Curve Intact:
To maintain a normal curve in the neck, all the cervical structures must be be strong. Healthy vertebrae adequately support the head on the neck. Also, strong connective tissues help resist the weight of the head, which is pulled down by gravity. Finally, the muscles in the back (especially in the back of the neck) resist the weight of the head as it falls forward.
Definition of Cervical Kyphosis:
Cervical kyphosis is a name given to the condition where the normal curve of the neck begins to straighten. Cervical kyphosis can progress to the point where the curve in the neck actually reverses, going in the opposite direction from its normal, healthy state.
Pain and Cervical Kyphosis:
Research studies have measured at which point the condition of cervical kyphosis will cause neck pain.
Causes of Cervical Kyphosis:
- The wear and tear of degenerative disks weakens the vertebra whose job it is to hold up the head. Over time this causes the head position to move forward. This in turn causes the normal lordotic curve in the neck to be lost. The result is that the neck begins to straighten.
- Inherited congential diseases and conditions
- Traumatic injury, such as whiplash, compression fracture, or iatrogenic injury.
- Systemic diseases, such as osteoporosis
Detecting and Diagnosing Cervical Kyphosis:
On an x-ray, it is easy to see if the neck bones line up in a straight or curved line. An x-ray will show:
- disk degeneration
- presence of arthritis
- other problems
An MRI offers a view of soft tissue and nerves.
A doctor will take a history, in which she/he will ask questions about your pain and how ambulatory you are. She or he will examine you for pain and range of movement. Your doctor may give you a nerve test, as well.
1. McAveny, Jeb, MS(Chiro), Schulz, Dan, BSC, Bock, Richard, MS(Chiro), Harrison, Deed, DC, Holland, Burt, PhD "Determining the Relationship Between Cervical Lordosis and Neck Complaints" J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2005 Mar; 28(3) Retrieved from: http://www.chiro.org/research/ABSTRACTS/Determining_the_Relationship.shtml May 25, 2005.
2. Spine University "A Patient's Guide to Cervical Kyphosis" Retrieved from: http://www.spineuniversity.com/public/spinesub.asp?id=59 May 25, 2005.