The myths around cervical curvature

Does a straight neck lead to neck pain?

We’ve talked about it in blog posts before: Chiropractors love to nit pick the curves of the spine.  In particular, your neck typically has a lordotic curve, which is just a fancy way of saying the opening of the “C” curve should point backwards. 

For decades, this curve had been a major point of emphasis for chiropractors.  You see, when your neck is injured, your brain tightens your muscles in order to protect the painful area.  This often leads to this neck curve appearing a bit more straight than normal.  Chiropractors call this a “loss of cervical curvature” and often tell their patients this finding is the first step in the degenerative process, and often times use it as a reason to convince patients that if they don’t come in for regular treatment, they are destined to live a life of degenerative cervical arthritis plagued by pain and disability. 

Well, there’s several things wrong with this thought process.  And we’ve felt this way for a while.  Check out our blog posts here and here. And today, we had a new research article brought to our attention that addresses this myth even more.  

The conclusion of the paper had a single finding regarding the curve of your neck and future pain:

"Nonlordotic cervical alignment was related to the progression of disk degeneration at C7-T1 but not other levels. Cervical alignment did not affect the development of clinical symptoms in healthy subjects."

 

What does that mean?  The curve of your spine didn't have relation to degeneration anywhere except for one joint. More so, it had nothing to do with developing neck pain.

Overall, the curve of your neck has little to no ability to predict your future neck pain. You may have degeneration of the neck some day, but everyone will if they live long enough. Having a decreased neck curve in your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s will not predict whether you will develop pain, so don’t let anyone tell you a straight neck curvature is a reason to pay out the ears for treatment.

 

 

Author
Dr. Todd Peterson, DC, Cert MDT. Dr. Todd Peterson Dr. Todd Peterson is a chiropractor and certified provider for Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy (MDT, aka the McKenzie Method). Dr. Peterson played football at the University of Nebraska, where he was a 4 year letter winner and Academic All American. He briefly played professional football in 2009 before returning to Chiropractic School in 2010. He earned his doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree from National University of Health Sciences in 2013, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.

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