It’s perfectly normal to have a curve in your spine when looking at it from the side.
This is how the spine is designed to help absorb shock, pressure and also to make you function correctly. Commonly we have an S-shaped curve in the spine – but sometimes there are variances in this depending on each person.
The neck is an area where changes in spinal shape and posture can occur. The neck is also known as the cervical spine – comprising of the 7 vertebrae starting at your upper back, leading to your head.
Hunchback and poked chin postures are common with the neck and this is where lordosis comes in. Lordosis refers to the inward curve of the neck – if a neck has increased lordosis, it has more of an inward curve than it usually has.
Some lordosis of the neck may not affect most people but others it will cause symptoms. Pain and dysfunction of the neck, shoulders and upper limbs are all common problems associated with increased cervical lordosis.
Read on to discover more about the anatomy of the neck, causes of lordosis, what symptoms you might encounter and some handy tips on what can help you in the shape of rehab and supplements!
The spine is divided into smaller sections and all of these sections have different characteristics. The upper part of the spine, which is commonly known as the neck is the cervical spine (pronounced ser-vy – ical). The neck forms the connection for your head to your trunk.
There are 7 vertebrae which are the bones of the neck. These are essentially 7 rings of bone which house your spinal cord and protect it. They also supply movement of your head. The bones of the cervical spine are the thinnest and smallest in the spine and most delicate. The upper vertebrae allow for more rotation of the neck and the lower vertebrae allow for more flexion and extension of the neck. The upper neck rotates the head and the lower part moves I forwards and backwards – to simplify. Each vertebra has a point at the back called a spinous process, the most prominent one is C7 and this is also the point where the neck ends and the upper back begins. Most people will have a more prominent spinous process here as it sticks out further than others. When this becomes more visible over time, it can also be known as a dowagers hump and this normal in most humans.
Between each bone of the neck there are structures called discs which are a fibrocartilage structure. The quality of the disc tissue means that it is firm, robust and flexible. These qualities of the discs allow for the neck to move in different directions. They provide protection for the neck by helping to absorb shock and also act as a ligament-like attachment between each vertebra. At the centre of the disc lies a softer centre called a nucleus pulposis which helps the spine to move in different directions with the rest of the disc being much firmer. Spinal discs are mostly made of water and over time the amount of water in our body decreases. This can lead to changes in the spine posture and also injuries such as bulges of the disc.
Our nerve roots exit from small openings known as facet joints on the side of the neck. They then feed off into the neck and upper limbs to help operate our functions such as movement, power, and touch. The nerves then extend to their destinations and the furthest being the hands. Each cervical nerve supplies and provides feeling (sensation) and movement (motor function) to both sides of a corresponding part of the upper body. Cervical nerves also supply the face, jaw and head areas.
They attach from the base of the skull and jaw and extend down towards the shoulder complex and upper back. Deep flexors of the neck which help to move the cervical spine forward and help it to look down. Extensors of the neck sit on the back of the neck and head and they assist in extension of the head and helping to take the spine backwards.
Larger muscles include the trapezius which starts at the upper back and attaches on to the base of the skull (occiput). Smaller accessory muscles such as the levator scapula which is a small strap-like muscle attaching from the shoulder blade up to the base of the skull. Scalenes can also have a major role in neck pain – they sit on the side of the neck and attach on to the first ribs.
There are many different reasons why cervical lordosis is caused in your body, some are preventable and some aren’t. It is also important to remember that many people can have a cervical lordosis without having symptoms or experiencing problems.
Poor Posture – prolonged positions such as looking down and weakness of the neck contribute towards long term changes in neck posture causing lordosis.
Obesity – extra weight on the neck and shoulder areas can have an effect on how the neck is held, again causing a long term chance of developing cervical lordosis.
Spondylolisthesis – This is a medical condition where vertebrae can slip backwards slightly causing the spine to change shape and can result in lordosis. It can also impact on neck movement, function and pain levels.
Osteoporosis – thinning of the bones can cause loss of density and even fracture resulting in a change of shape in the spine.
Osteosarcoma – development of tumour in a cervical bone may cause changes in the shape of the spine.
At the start of the article, we mentioned that not all lordosis will be painful and for the most part it won’t be an issue for most people. However, there are a fraction of those people that will have symptoms. Here are a few of the problems lordosis may cause.
ocal tingling of the neck and or hands may be experienced. Due to altered neck position, this may cause compression or reduced space for the cervical nerve roots. This will cause aggravation and tingling which is a nerve symptom.
Just like tingling, numbness of the hands is another nerve based symptom of cervical lordosis. This may happen when a nerve suffers compression or trapping.
Reduced Range of Movement
Because the neck changes position it may not work like it previously did. For the neck to work normally and mechanically it must be aligned, lordosis causes poor mechanical structure. Poor rotation, flexion and extension are common.
When nerve symptoms get to their worst you may find that weakness of the upper limb occurs. This is due to the message being sent down the nerve is being partially stopped. It is important to monitor weakness and if it worsens you must seek medical attention. Muscle wasting can happen in the worst cases, this may cause the muscles in your arms to look loose and small.
Shooting / Electric Shock Pains
Short episodes of intense pain can occur. This can be from the neck joints where they have become painful or shooting pains can extend down into the arms and this may be due to nerve pain.
These supplements will not help to prevent lordosis of the neck but they can help to manage symptoms of neck pain and contribute towards a healthy body.
This has a useful role in the body by helping to regulate most of your body’s functions, especially muscle, bone and nerve function, essential for your neck. Most people may be lacking in magnesium in their diet but it can be easily supplemented with tablets or with a spray which you apply to your skin.
This can be cooked with but to achieve the anti-inflammatory property it needs to be taken in high doses. Luckily there are plenty of options for high strength turmeric supplementation in the forms of tablets, capsules and even teas. Reducing inflammation can help to reduce pain.
Cod Liver Oil
This helps to maintain healthy joints by keeping them well lubricated. Cod liver oil is full of nutrients and aids the maintenance of healthy joints. It has benefits for your heart, skin, hair and nails as well.
If you are having trouble with symptoms then treating your cervical lordosis can be done with some of the following options:
Simple pain relief is a good start to managing any pain you may have. Look at off the shelf options or see a doctor if you require anything stronger.
In extreme cases where pain may be high and the extent of the lordosis is severe, a doctor may recommend a brace to help encourage better neck position.
In some cases where pain and movement are issues, seeing a good physical therapist is a great way to help improve your pain levels and improve your neck movement.
You may not be able to prevent how you get lordosis but for people with non-medical conditions who simply acquire lordosis, it may be useful to follow these steps.
Strengthen your neck
Weakness in the neck will place more pressure on the neck joints and reduce its general function. Perform regular exercises each week to support your neck and this should help reduce any chances of cervical lordosis. See our exercise list below for help on this.
Improve your posture
Due to modern lifestyles including lots of computer and phone use – poor neck posture is common. This is a big factor in developing lordosis of the neck. Take regular breaks from technology or reading and ensure you have a good setup to make it comfortable and correct for your neck.
Control your weight
Increased weight can cause posture of the neck to be affected, especially if you build up unneeded fat tissue on the upper back and neck areas which prevents movement of the neck. Eat within your daily allowance and exercise regularly to help contribute towards healthy posture.
Active Range of Movement
These exercises are very simple. They can be done in standing, sitting or lying down. Simply take your neck and move it in every direction possible. This helps to improve how the neck moves and can aid reduction in stiffness and soreness. Increase the amount of movement you have to reduce symptoms!
Repeat the steps of the first exercise but this time use your hand to supply pressure to the movement. For example – look down and apply pressure to the back of the head and hold for 5-10 seconds. This will stretch the tissues of the neck and improve the movement of the neck. This exercise can be done in any direction – flexion, extension, rotation and side flexion.
When strengthening the neck it is vital to start with a simple exercise. This exercise is known as an isometric exercise, which means a still contraction. Again – work in all directions, simply use your hand and press your head into your hand in your chosen direction and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this until the neck and head become tired. Placing your hand on the back of the head and pushing backwards will work the neck extensors, placing your hand on the forehead and pushing forward will work the neck flexors.
Simple shrugging and holding of the shoulders help to strengthen the upper back, shoulders and neck muscles to help contribute towards a stronger neck.