If you’ve been told you have cervical straightening, or straightening of the neck curvature, then you likely experience neck pain, tension in the neck, neck movement restriction, arm pain, shoulder pain, tingling in the fingers, mid-back pain, and more!
What was once a condition typically seen in older individuals has drastically increased and most commonly impacts those between 25-35 years old. We have our increased use of digital devices to thank for that! Learn more about what cervical straightening is, how it’s diagnosed, the causes, and if it can be fixed!
What is Cervical Straightening?
Cervical straightening is a condition of the cervical (neck) spine. You see, the spine is broken up in 3 sections:
- Cervical (neck)
- Thoracic (mid-back)
- Lumbar (lower back)
And each of these sections have a natural curve to them. The cervical spine and lumbar spine both have lordotic curve that curves forward. The thoracic spine has a kyphotic curve, that curves the opposite direction. Use the photo on the right for reference.
Now, straightening of the curve means just that! Instead of having the curve, the spine has straightened. Why is that a problem? Because, the neck did not have the curve by accident! The curvature of the spine ensures ideal function of the discs between the vertebrae (spine bones), ligaments, and balance of the muscles surrounding the neck.
Straightening of the curve can result in:
- Chronic neck pain
- Neck tension
- Upper back pain
- Pinched nerve
- Arm pain
- Tingling in the fingers
- And more!
Straightening of the cervical curve is not an isolated issue but will impact the curvature and function of the rest of the spine. Keep reading to learn how to know if you have straightening of the neck curve and what you can do to be pain free.
How is Cervical Straightening Diagnosed?
Cervical straightening is mostly diagnosed by chiropractors or physical therapists. The straightening of the curve can be visually seen in examination and confirmed with x-ray to really see the extent.
If you are told that you have cervical straightening, this is not something to ignore even if you are without pain! You should start working to correct your posture, movement, and lifestyle soon rather than later. Remember, the absence of pain does not mean health.
What Causes Cervical Straightening and Neck Pain
One the biggest contributors to cervical straightening and neck pain is the increased use of digital devices! The curvature of your neck is not an accident! It is designed specifically for the function and to most effectively support the weight of your head. Did you know the average head weighs about 11 pounds? With the shifting of the head forward over the neck that load distribution changes making the head to weigh up to 50 pounds! No wonder you have neck pain!
What happens over time, as the head and neck slip forward resulting in a “tech neck” posture, the spine starts to adjust to the demand placed on it. Instead of it’s natural curvature the spine will start to straighten accommodating the load and posture. You can even have a reversal of the curve, where the curve starts to become more like the thoracic spine curve. Watch the video above to understand the different degrees of cervical curvature decrease, straightening, and reversal!
Can Cervical Straightening Be Fixed
A common question I’m asked after telling a patient that they have cervical straightening is, “How do I fix it?”. Now, with cervical straightening it really depends on the degree of change in the curvature:
- Correct curve
- Decreased curve (there is still some integrity of the original curve but a small degree)
- Straightening of the curve (the curve has straightened lacking curvature)
- Reversal of the curve (the curve is going in the opposite direction)
At any stage the most important thing to note is that if you do nothing it will get worse! If you are at the stage of decreased curve then you want to take action right away to start restoring some of the natural curve and continue a routine to maintain it. With a straightening of the curve or reversal the curve may not be salvageable but its extremely important to take action to prevent any further damage. So how do you do that?
Before even getting to any exercises there are some lifestyle modifications that need to take place! First is minimizing the amount of time you spend on your phone. When possible use a desktop computer to send emails or do your work. Now, I know I can’t expect you completely stay off your phone but how you hold your phone can make a huge difference. Watch the video below to learn how you need to start holding your phone.
Now, the phone is not the only contributor to cervical straightening! If you work behind a desk (which who doesn’t these days), your work ergonomics must be addressed. Use this Ergonomic Checklist to make sure you’re minimizing the damage done.
Make sure you don’t skip this step, because the little things you do everyday make a difference in the end.
Treatment Options for Cervical Straightening
For exercises and treatment options for cervical straightening stay tuned for our next blog. Meanwhile, make sure you are following us on Instagram for daily functional movement and posture tips and subscribe to our Youtube Channel for more in depth exercises and info. If you think you have straightening of the curve in your neck or you just want to fix your overall posture contact us.