How to Restore a Healthy Curve in Your Neck
January 30, 2019
By Chiro One Wellness Centers
Why is a Healthy Cervical Curve Important?
If you’re a patient of chiropractic, you’ve probably heard how important your cervical curve is to your overall spinal health. The cervical curve consists of the first seven vertebrae, starting from the base of your skull at the C1 (atlas) vertebrae and ending just above your thoracic spine at C7. The curve is structurally intended to protect the neck from damage, reduce the amount of force on your spinal cord and nerves, and provide optimal neurological function from the brain to the body. When your neck doesn’t have proper curvature the nerves, muscles and other soft tissues are susceptible to stress and strain, which can cause numerous symptoms including persistent headaches and migraines.
To get a better understanding of why the curvatures in your spine are important, imagine (don’t try) jumping off a ledge and landing on your feet without bending your knees. Ouch! “The curvatures in the spine act as shock absorbers for various body parts,” Dr. Sylvia Kim, D.C., longtime chiropractor says. “If the correct curvatures are not present, the discs and joints will experience greater pressure.”
What are the 4 Types of Cervical Curves?
There are four different types of curvatures in the cervical spine, all of which can be determined through an x-ray.
- Lordotic. This is a normal, healthy curvature in the neck and consists of about 42 degrees when standing upright. Think of it as a c-shaped curve that faces the opposite way your nose points.
- Hypolordotic/Alordotic. This means that there is a decreased curve or no curve in the neck. In an X-ray, the neck may look straight.
- Reverse Curve/Kyphotic. This is a reverse curve that causes more problems the greater the curve’s degree becomes. Imagine your neck curving in the opposite direction it’s supposed to and forming a hunchback.
- “S” Curve. The hardest curve to correct, the “S” curve is when the spine has both a lordotic and kyphotic curve.
Common Issues Related to an Irregular Curve
When the integrity of the cervical curve is compromised the neck becomes weaker and the posture related to the head changes in ways that can cause short or long term symptoms. With additional strain on the musculature, debilitating headaches, migraines, persistent neck pain, and neurological issues can follow.
Dr. Sylvia sees a lot of patients who experience frequent headaches or migraines, and commonly it’s directly related to an irregular curve in their neck. “Typical headache or migraine patients will have a straight neck (hypolordotic/alordotic) or a reverse curvature (kyphotic),” she says. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, “Many patients deal with these symptoms for years with little to no relief.”
More long term symptoms of a problematic or unhealthy neck curve include a predisposition to premature disc degeneration, arthritis, joint fusion, and neurological symptoms.
How to Correct a Problematic Neck Curve for Pain Relief
“Certain chiropractic adjustments, supportive exercises, and therapies are designed to bring back the neck’s ideal (lordotic) curve,” Dr. Sylvia explains. “For a vast majority of patients without a lordotic curve, these treatments have led to the majority of headaches dissipating, if not disappearing altogether.”
Dr. Sylvia’s Top Five Recommendations
Don’t fret! If you’ve been experiencing some symptoms or would like to be more proactive about your spinal health, these important tips are for you. Use them with your preferred chiropractic practitioner or in addition to your regular treatments.
- Visit your chiropractor for an exam and X-rays of your cervical spine; closely follow their recommendations for your care plan—and stick to it! You may start to feel better right away—which is great—but spinal correction takes time and you’ll need regular maintenance. Think of it like needing to wear a retainer after braces.
- Be mindful of your posture at all times (think: sitting, driving, texting, standing, etc.). If you have poor posture, your curvature can easily change from a healthy curve to a problematic one. Sit and stand with your shoulders back and watch that you’re not pushing your head forward, your ears should line up vertically with your shoulders.
- While it might be comfortable, sleeping on your stomach isn’t good for your neck or back; over time this position can cause your spinal curvatures to change. Ask your chiropractor about the best sleep position and pillow type for you.
- Watch how you work! If you’re often seated at a desk, pay attention to how your workspace is set up—and how you use it. Your monitor should sit directly in front of you and be elevated about 3 inches higher than eye level (you should never look down at your screen), your feet should be able to rest flat on the ground (get a small footstool if necessary) and again, be sure you’re sitting with your shoulders back.
- Avoid having your wallet in your back pocket—this can create an imbalance—place it in your front pocket or remove it when you sit. And if you carry a heavy purse, purchase one with a strap that goes across your chest and switch sides from time-to-time.
Improve Your Neck’s Curve with a Chiropractor Near You
Chiropractors are trained to help the neck restore proper mobility and function through safe, controlled, and specific forces applied to the joints or muscles. With expertise and guidance, a chiropractor can help you learn more ways to apply exercises or stretches so that your neck, spine, and entire body becomes more in balance and able to heal.
With clinics in the following metro areas: Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, Vancouver, and St. Louis you’ll be able to find a chiropractor near you. Make an appointment to start your wellness plan today. Your neck’s curve will appreciate it.