The curvature in your neck is an all too often, neglected step-child of spine care.

No one every thinks about the loss of curvature in the neck when it comes to neck pain.

Neck pain is one of the most common complaints and ranked 4th highest in terms of disability. [1, 2]

From 1990-2010, the Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) as a result of neck pain, increased from 23.9 million in 1990 to 33.6 million (47%).

Experts agree that the incidence of neck pain is rising due to poor posture, ergonomics and the adoption of smart devices.

The most common treatment for neck pain includes over the counter medication such as aspirin and ibuprofen, steroid injections, surgery and chiropractic care.

Previously, I discussed the problems associated with using over the counter medications.

NSAIDs (like tylenol and advil) can result in stomach ulcers and bleeding and are associated with an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular incidents. This is common with continued and prolonged use.

In addition, research, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, found that chiropractic care was better at reducing neck pain than taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or narcotics.

Despite the fact that research has proven chiropractic care to be better than other treatments for neck pain, spinal surgery is often recommended.

For years spinal surgeons and orthopedic physicians performed surgeries that completely disregarded the curvature of the neck.

Regrettably, these surgeries have caused more harm than good and resulted in a diagnosis known as failed neck surgery syndrome.

Failed neck surgery syndrome (FNSS) is a general term used to describe pain or discomfort that continues after a surgical procedure to the neck. Chronic pain following neck surgery may come from recurrent damage to vertebrae or tissue in the cervical spine, inadequate healing of bone or tissue surrounding the surgical site, or from scar tissue formation.

It's ridiculous to know that a loss of the cervical curve is what causes neck pain, and very few doctors, spine specialists and orthopedics are aware of it.

In our personal clinical experience, well over 90% of patients with headache and neck pain have a loss of the normal cervical curve that is easily observed with digital X-Ray examination and abnormal posture.

We even have patients who have visited orthopedic doctors and were never informed of this loss of curvature?

Normal cervical curvature presents with a lordotic or “C shaped” curve of approximately 42 degrees measured from C2 to C7.

Without this normal curvature, most often the balance of the weight of the head will be shifted forward, creating more wear and tear of the spinal discs and tension on the muscles and ligament surrounding the neck.

This eventually leads to bony spurs and osteophytes, decreased mobility of the cervical spine and neck pain.

Among other conventional treatments, corrective chiropractic techniques are proven to improve the curvature of the neck.

Let’s explore why fixing the neck curve is a big deal and what you can do short of surgery to help it.

What is a Normal Neck Curve?

The neck curve is also called the cervical lordosis.

It’s a curve that distributes weight evenly to the joints in the back and front parts of the spine.

This curve can be measured on a digital xray and the normal amount of curvature is anything > 30 degrees.

Think of this as a biometric similar to blood pressure, where 120/80 mm hg is normal blood pressure. Similarly, anything > 30 degrees is considered normal.

Anything less than 30 degress and the incidence of neck pain and damage begins to occur.

The neck curvature is ultimately a primary factor in the development of spine dysfunctions.

It also balances out the other curves in your spine including the upper mid back (known as a kyphosis) and the opposing curve in the low back (lordosis).

So a loss of the normal neck curve can even contribute to mid back pain and low back pain.

What else happens when you lose the normal neck curve?

The head begins to shift forward and this changes the body's center of gravity.

In short, it causes forward head posture and effectively increases the amount of weight and pressure placed on the spine. The loss of curvature in your neck places more weight on the discs, which causes them to fail much sooner.

The loss of the neck curve is also associated with “hump back syndrome” or age-related hyperkyphosis. This condition impairs mobility and increases the risk of falls and fractures. In fact, a 2011 research study found that age-related hyperkyphosis was associated with an increase in all cause mortality!

All that said, if you have neck pain and you know that you have a loss of curvature in your neck – that's they primary reason why you're hurting. [3]

If you don't know what your neck looks like on X-ray, you should consider getting an X-ray examination!

Why Neck Surgery is Not a Good Option for Neck Pain

As I mentioned previously, surgeons have often ignored the normal curvature in the neck.

Until recently, the devices to fuse the spine would cause the spine to straighten even more, even though the spine needs to be curved in order to stop the deterioration of joints and discs.

Fortunately, newer spine-fusion devices allow for the curvature, but we’ve seen plenty of those installed that still result in any changes.

What's ridiculous is that you can restore the normal neck curve without surgery.

But what happens to patients who get neck surgery?

Their head is forced forward, and the muscles that are supposed to hold up their bowling ball end up getting overloaded, causing pain and disability.

This means that people who have gotten surgical fusions or plates placed into their necks during surgery, will most likely suffer from long term chronic neck pain because the curve was not corrected.

A new study looked at neck surgery where the curve was corrected and they found much better outcomes. [4]

Forgetting about the problems with neck fusions for a moment, the new research results suggested that fusing patients with a neck curve was better and that special tools could accomplish that goal.

The authors also found that by fusing more levels, they could make it more likely that the whole neck still had a curve after the surgery.

At first this all sounds pretty good, and for the few patients out of 100 in the U.S. who get a fusion surgery and actually needed one, this might be a great approach.

However, in our experience, the vast majority of patients who end up with these aggressive surgeries don’t need them and in fact develop complications far worse than the initial neck problem.

Let me explain.

Getting a neck fusion is a lot like owning a dog with fleas; it comes with baggage you might not have expected before.

You see, the surgery doesn’t really cure anything; it just accomplishes a goal while screwing other things up.

Why does this happen? Because of something known as adjacent segment disease.

Adjacent segment disease (ASD) is where the levels above and below the fusion get worn out faster than they normally would.

So either way, neck surgery is only a temporary fix.

In addition, the more segments you fuse, the more common ASD will be.

Nonsurgical Ways to Fix the Neck Curve

Yes, you can absolutely correct your spine without surgery.

First, there's Corrective Chiropractic techniques much like our office prescribes.

The chiropractic technique utilized in our office is one of the most well-researched chiropractic techniques called Chiropractic Biophysics. [5]

It basically uses specialized traction methods, exercises and chiropractic adjustments to improve the curvatures of the spine.

In addition, there are cervical orthotics that can absolutely improve the cervical curve.

Recently a breakthrough randomized trial was conducted at Cairo University in Egypt and co-authored by CBP Non-Profit research organization where it was determined that using a Denneroll Cervical Orthotic improved the cervical curve. [6]

The study investigated 40 patients with chronic pain and disability. There was a short (10-weeks) and long term (1-year) outcome measurement of neck disability, neck pain, arm pain, and measures of neuro-physiology were assessed.

The investigation used a standard intervention frequency and duration of 3x per week for 10 weeks or 30 total chiropractic treatment sessions.

Patient participants were assigned equally to one of two groups: Denneroll Cervical Orthotic group and Non-Denneroll Orthotic Group.

Both groups received a standardized multiple treatment procedure protocol including:

  • Spinal manipulative therapy for the thoracic spine,
  • Myofascial stretching and release techniques to the cervical spine and anterior brachial plexus area,
  • Functional and strengthening exercise protocol designed to improve strength, flexibility, posture, and reduce pain,
  • A series of home care instructions.

Only the Denneroll group received the cervical Denneroll in addition to the standardized multiple treatment techniques.

All treatments were applied 3x per week for 10 weeks. At the end of the 30 treatments, following a minimum of 1-day with no treatment, all subjects were re-evaluated.

Lastly, treatment was then stopped and all subjects were followed for an additional 1-year to see if the 10-week outcomes were maintained at this long term follow up.

What did they find?

The addition of the cervical Denneroll orthotic was found to improve the cervical curve by an average of 13° and improved forward head posture by 12mm.

This improvement in cervical curvature and posture in the Denneroll group was found to be associated with improvement in chronic neck pain, arm pain, and neck disability and a reduction in medication usage over the 1 year time period.

Furthermore, in the group receiving the Denneroll and curve correction, their peripheral nervous system speed was found to increase by 24% and the spinal cord–central conduction time–was found to increase by 23%! [16] 

Increases in Neck Curvature Results in Increased Blood to the Brain

We all know that blood needs to flow in and out of the brain to keep us healthy.

But what happens when the channels where the blood passes through to get to and from the brain is not aligned properly? Bad Stuff – that impacts every single part of your body!

In a recent study, published in the journal Brain Circulation, a positive correlation was found between cervical lordosis (neck curvature) and blood flow to your brain. [8]

When people used the Denneroll neck orthotic, it instantaneously changed the curve in their neck, and an MRI measured more blood flow to the brain.

Why does this matter?

Proper neck curve has a lot to do with how well your neck and spine function.

Not only does the improvement in neck curvature result in better movement, but it also results in better function i.e. increased blood to the brain, increased nerve conduction to the arms and hands.

It makes sense that when a head or neck injury occurs, it can affect many things like: memory, hearing, vision, headaches, dizziness and neck pain.

Now we know that if the neck has lost its proper orientation in a c shaped curve of 30-40 degrees, then the blood flow can literally be restricted to the BRAIN as well!!!

And what's bad for the brain is bad for the entire body.

So if you know someone with a head or neck injury and who complains of chronic pain or problems, it might be time to have a look and see what’s going on.