A better curve in your neck
Having a good curve in your neck means a lot. Clinical problems of the human spine continue to be prevalent in modern society. Examples include chronic neck pain, lower back pain, sciatica, radiculopathy leading to pain, numbness and tingling. Spinal deformity in both adults and children, spinal tumor and spinal trauma, including trauma to the spinal cord are different causes of pain. Any well-trained and qualified practitioners with special focus on musculoskeletal health would know the various publications from White and Panjabi on the topic of clinical biomechanics of the spine. Their contribution can be tracked all the way from the 1970/80s, providing basic bio-mechanical information concerning the spine, its components, and the spinal cord.
Better curvature, Better bio-mechanics, Better function, Better Health
It is an indisputable fact that spinal curvature (Cervical,Thoracic and Lumbar) is extremely important. As a chiropractor specialized in Clinical Biomechanics of Posture or Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP®), I get to witness how important this is and its close association to various musculoskeletal problems. That being said, chiropractors are not the only profession that put great emphasis on spinal curvatures and mechanics. As mentioned above (White and Panjabi), the medical profession is aware of this importance due to the known clinical effects of abnormal spinal curvatures. Many clinical studies have been carried by different professions (orthopedic, chiropractic, physical therapy), showing how essential it is to obtain and maintain a proper spinal curvature for optimal balance. Unfortunately, many are still oblivious to the damaging effects of spinal misalignment.
The term evidence-based practice was first introduced in the mid- 1990s to deliver patient care with best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. So often that I was questioned regarding the correlation of spinal alignment to clinical presentation and its importance to clinical outcomes. Some of them thought that only Chiropractors would emphasize on such importance, it is unconventional and therefore it is not important. While it is undeniable that many Chiropractors would speak about this, spinal curvatures are definitely not a new terminology to the medical profession. This is especially true to the elite orthopedic surgeons. To address some of these misunderstandings and shed some light on this topic, here are some of the many articles from prestigious medical journals on the topic of spinal curvature.
How does a good neck looks like ?
There are many lines, angles and terminologies used to analyse the curvature of the cervical spine (neck). To simplify, a healthy neck with good bio-mechanics is one with:
- A substantial degree of curve that arches forward (side view)
- Proper balance from the side view (i.e. head should not lean forward, away from the shoulder)
- Lower Cervical and/or Upper Thoracic should have considerable amount of curvature / slope
Studies performed to evaluate neck curvature and its importance to human health
Study 1: This study looked at the side-way balance of individuals with healthy neck and those with disc degeneration in their neck. The findings were that individuals with healthy neck has greater amount of lower neck curvature, and lesser amount of forward head posture.
What does this mean – These results showed that the occurrence and development of cervical disc degeneration may be closely related to a reduced (abnormal) neck curvature and increased (abnormal) forward head posture.
Study 2: This study looked at individuals with no symptom coming from the cervical spine. The researchers found that as a neck arches further into normal curvature, the head lean forward lesser and the lower neck/upper thoracic has a more normal curvature.
What does this mean – A normal neck with proper neck curve in healthy individual with no symptoms should have lesser amount of forward head posture and greater lower neck curve.
Study 3: This research studied the correlation between the side-way balance/alignment of the neck and its functionality in those with osteoarthritis in the neck (Cervical Spondylosis). It was concluded that overall cervical lordosis (neck curvature) has a significant inverse correlation with neck disability.
What does this mean – A neck with a normal lordosis (curve) has better neck function.
Study 4: Another study looking the impact of side-way balance of the neck on function and disability. These study was done on individuals with cervical cord compression, nerve compression, and cervical stenosis (narrowing of the cord canal). The study found that those with lower degree of neck curvature and greater amount of forward head leaning sustained greater disability.
What does this mean – Increased side-way imbalance (forward leaning) with lower neck curve can lead to lower neck functions and higher neck disability.
Study 5: This research looked into the impact of neck curvature in individuals with multi-level operation at the neck. The authors found that the greater the distance of the neck fixed in a lean-forward position, away from the central gravity, the greater the disability following surgical reconstruction.
What does this mean – In surgical case, surgeons are aware that the surgical reconstruction should be done to create the best possible side-way balance at the cervical spine. This is very important to reduce the severity of disability after surgery.
A better curve in your neck – Better Bio-mechanics, Better Function, Better Health
The above are just a small handful of research studies carried out to evaluate the importance of neck curvature and the impacts it has on human health. More importantly, these are all medical research done in the field of medicine (neurosurgery,orthopedics,etc.). Hopefully, with these informed knowledge, you would take your spinal health and alignment a little more serious. If you wish to know more about what you can do to improve your spinal curvature through a non-invasive and conservation spinal rehabilitation, please do not hesitate to contact us.