A straight cervical spine, also known as military neck, means that the neck curvature has been lost.
What is Military Neck?
Neck curve, or cervical lordosis, is normal and stabilizes the spine and head. If that curve straightens out, problems result. A normal cervical lordosis is shaped “like a very wide C” that is “pointing toward the back of the neck”. The straightening is called cervical kyphosis or reverse lordosis. While some may inherit a straight cervical spine, others may cause this situation through stress, injury, strain, poor positioning, or poor posture. Catching and treating this condition early leads to fewer complications. The final option for patients who do not have early interventions might be surgery, and that carries risks. If fusion is performed, patients may be more likely to be injured due to the spine losing flexibility.1 Reversal of normal cervical lordosis is also referred to as “military neck”. This name is not really due to injury while on duty, but it does refer to the “straight and stiff appearance of a soldier’s posture”. Texting, computer screen position, and even whiplash can cause military neck. For some, it may be a “secondary condition of Atlas Displacement Complex”.2 Atlas Displacement Complex is a subluxation or misalignment of the spine due to a shift of the neck and head “away from normal”.3
Cervical Kyphosis Symptoms and Treatments
Reversal of cervical lordosis causes symptoms such as headaches, shoulder pain, and neck stiffness and pain. Pain relievers merely mask the problem. Repetitive movements, poor posture, and injuries can continue to cause reversal of the normal cervical lordosis. It is possible to reverse cervical kyphosis (military neck) depending on the patient’s other medical conditions (disc degeneration, osteoarthritis). Following the chiropractor’s recommendations at home is crucial to reversing this condition over time. Chiropractic adjustments, exercises, stretches, and neck extension can resolve military neck and relieve pain.4 For some patients, a neck brace may be necessary. Surgery is not often recommended.5 Patients can work at home to remedy their condition by seeking maintenance chiropractic visits, being aware of posture, finding the proper sleeping position (not on the stomach) and appropriate pillow, rearranging the workspace so that it is more ergonomic, and even removing the wallet from the back pocket or wearing a purse that crosses the body.6 Simple changes in a daily lifestyle and regular chiropractic care (along with stretches and exercises), can reverse the military neck condition, especially if it is treated early.
Learn more about chiropractic and the military.