What is Cervical Lordosis?
A neck normally has a curve to it, but cervical lordosis can be a problem when there is “excessive curvature of the cervical spine”. Any changes to that normal curve can lead to issues. Excessive curvature can lead to discomfort, and straightening of the normal cervical curve is also problematic. When straightening of the cervical lordosis occurs, it makes neck movement difficult. Some patients may experience curving to the left or right. The common causes of cervical lordosis problems include postural changes, congenital conditions, and musculoskeletal conditions. Patients who have poor posture, especially when lifting weights or performing desk work, can make their cervical spine develop abnormal curvature. Some people may also have issues since birth. Some of the musculoskeletal conditions of the spine that could create cervical lordosis issues include scoliosis and kyphosis, as well as osteoporosis (bones weakening). Disc prolapse and herniation, as well as spondylolisthesis, can lead to further problems. An injury or long-term muscle spasm can create changes to the normal curvature, such as excessive lordosis (curve) or spine straightening (loss of cervical lordosis).1
Symptoms of Cervical Lordosis, Reversal, and Straightening
A swayed back neck is an indicator of the lordosis condition. There may even be “extra space in between the neck and the surface on which you are lying down”. Range-of-motion restrictions and pain in moving the neck are common symptoms, as well. The upper back, neck, and shoulder muscles become tense, and spasms are often reported, especially when raising the hands, lifting weights, or moving the neck. Nerve-related symptoms are possible, especially if a nerve becomes trapped. This may lead to a feeling of tingling and numbness in the fingers, hands, or arms. Left untreated, symptoms worsen, but proper treatment can help them subside. Immediate medical attention would be necessary for patients who have “weakness in the hands and fingers or difficulty in maintaining control”.2 The cervical spine should not be straightening either. This condition is called “loss of cervical lordosis”. In terms of anatomy, “when the curve points toward the front, it’s called a lordosis and toward the back, it’s called a kyphosis”. Losing the curve means the head’s weight is not balanced, and that leads to overload, pain, and more wear-and-tear on the vertebral discs.3 Reversal of cervical lordosis is kyphosis, which means the front of the spine becomes concave. This would also lead to degenerative changes and “progressive neurologic conditions”.4 There is a disorder that can develop called “text neck”, which results from looking down too long, such as when texting on a cell phone too frequently. This head down and head forward posture leads to neurological problems, such as symptoms radiating down the arm. Shoulder pain and upper back spasms are also likely.5
Prevention, Treatments, and Exercises
Whether from texting or other postural issues, prevention is important so as not to interfere with the normal curvature of the neck. Taking breaks, exercising, stretches, and strengthening the core muscles of the body could all help patients avoid problems. People can hold their cell phones at eye level, and office workers should make sure their computer screen is at the appropriate height so that the head is positioned properly. Special neck exercises may be prescribed by a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor. Treatments might include “manual adjustments, massage therapy, and cold laser therapy”.6 These would be preferable to medications or surgical interventions. One exercise that is recommended is “neck rotation”, in which the patient is instructed to turn the head to the left or right, slowly, holding for a couple of seconds. Another exercise, “neck flexion” involved bending the head down and holding it for a few seconds before returning it to neutral. A third exercise is called “neck retraction”. In this, the neck is slid forward, or pulled backward (pulling the chin in). The fourth exercise is “neck extension”, in which the head is tilted back so the patient looks towards the ceiling. The last neck-related exercise is called the “neck side tilt”, in which the patient tilts the head to each shoulder. In addition, patients can exercise their shoulders with “backward shoulder retraction” (pulling the shoulders back), “shoulder shrugs”, and “forward shoulder retraction”. The latter exercise is performed by crossing the arms across the chest so that the hands hold the opposite shoulders.7 The neck should have a healthy C-shaped curve. Besides being mindful of posture, performing exercises, and regular chiropractic visits, patients should avoid sleeping on their stomach. Chiropractors can recommend appropriate sleeping positions and pillows, as well as ergonomic working positions. Interestingly, having a wallet in the back pocket causes an imbalance, but it may be more well-known that heavy purses cause strain. If carrying one is necessary, the strap should go across the chest and the patient should switch sides, periodically.8
1, 2, 7 http://www.epainassist.com/back-pain/upper-back-pain/cervical-lordosis
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