Straight Neck Syndrome, Hypolordosis, Military Neck, Cervical Reversal - Kyphosis
Your neck is supposed to have a curve to it when viewed from the side. This is called a cervical (neck) lordosis (inward curve). Basically, it's a backwards "C" shape with the hollow part in the back of your neck and the outward curve facing towards your chin. Your neck may straighten or lose curvature causing "straight neck syndrome."
Causes of Straight Neck
Research indicates that of all the cases of people with a significantly straightened (hypolordotic) neck, only about 11% are NOT due to trauma. So the majority of cases of straight neck comes from trauma, chief among them are car accidents. Other trauma like a blow to the body from behind (football, soccer, etc), slips and falls, diving into shallow water and hitting ground, etc. may be the culprit. In the 11% not due to known trauma, the lack of neck curve may be related to birthing trauma, extreme poor posture, subluxation (misalignment) left untreated, poor sleep hygiene (stomach sleeping).
Straight Neck Syndrome Symptoms
The most common symptoms associated with a straight neck are:
- Neck stiffness
- Neck pain
- Popping and cracking of neck on movement
- Burning in shoulder blades
- Knots in shoulders
- Easily irritated, anxious or aggravated especially while sitting at computer, desk, etc
- Difficulty finding good sleep position, pillow fit
Consequences of Untreated Straight Neck
If your neck remains straightened, the improper positioning causes stress on the bones of the neck (vertebrae) which changes their electrical properties and attracts bone growth (spurs) at sites of stress where ligaments attach. You will see this as bone spurs usually in front of the neck. As this continues the increased stress will cause the intervertebral disc to wear out and lose height. This in turn causes more stress and more bone spurring. This is a relentless process that continues over many years until the spine is fused.
The end result is a painful and stiff neck that is easily irritated by activity and may begin to alter nerve flow from your neck.
Luckily, there are treatments available to repair and correct a straightened neck and prevent the deterioration. The problem is that your medical doctor, physiotherapist and even many chiropractors have no idea how to change a neck curve. Only about 10% of chiropractors actively work at correcting spinal curvatures.
The first step is to loosen the neck joints up. The neck cannot be made to curve if you have muscle spasm or tightness or if the individual spinal joints are all locked up. During this step chiropractic adjustments and stretches are given to generally loosen up the spine. Therapy modalities like heat and electrical stimulation may also be used to reduce muscle tension.
The next step is the actual "molding" of the neck. Did you ever have braces to straighten your teeth? The concept is the same: pressure over time causes the tissues to change and maintain a different shape. unfortunately we cannot put your neck in a brace and hold it there to re-model it. Instead, we apply pressure to the neck with specific exercises, traction and adjustments to slowly direct the spine to the proper position. Most of the work is done by you at home doing your exercises with periodic visits to the office for adjustments.
It can anywhere from 3-12 months to achieve significant curvature gains, but it does happen and will happen as long as you follow the program established for you.
Is There a Straight Neck Pillow That Can Fix My Neck?
Sorry, no. There is no pillow available that can correct your neck, BUT there are several pillows that can aggravate and promote a straight neck! If your pillow is too big and you lie on it on your back it will stretch your neck up and reduce your curve. Also sleeping on your stomach can put stress on the neck and promote misalignment. It's natural for you to move all around while you sleep. It's the body's way of making sure you don't stay in one position too long and get stiff and sore. Since you will spend most of your time lying on one side or the other, I recommend a pillow that is properly fitted for side sleeping. When you do roll to your back, it will not be very comfortable and you will naturally roll over to your side.
By properly sizing your pillow for side sleeping, you will not improve your neck curve, but you will not be aggravating it either. Watch the video where I explain "the pillow trick."