Normal and Abnormal Neck Alignment: The Five Things You Must Do to Correct Neck Alignment
Let me start off by describing what correct neck alignment is. Ideal alignment
is having your neck straight up and down when looking at your posture from the front or back. When looking from the side you should have a smoothing flowing C-curvature. This squidoo lens will showcase for you what a normal and abnormal neck curve look like on x-ray. See the Person's X-ray on the Left ?- that looks like a pretty good neck curve, good neck alignment. Notice the backwards "C" line that is drawn on the x-ray? It has something to do with that. Keep reading for more information about neck alignment and having it the best you can get.
What Are the Ways that One's Neck Alignment Can Be Out of Whack?
Everyday activities can be a cause of bad neck alignment.
- A Motor vehicle accident that caused a whiplash in your neck
- Constant sitting on the computer
- Talking on the phone for many hours a day, with your head cocked to the side
- A sports injury: basketball, rugby, lacrosse
- Having bad neck posture while on your computer, or tablet
- Carrying a Heavy Backpack
- Texting on Your Cell Phone
- Being in One Position for a Long Time
- Stiff Neck
- Using Your Tablet Computer for long periods of time
- Driving for long periods
How does one Determine What the Neck Curve Looks Like?
By having a neck x-ray. Specifically a lateral cervical neck x-ray. This is an x-ray from the side of your neck. Also, another good x-ray to look at is called the AP cervical x-ray: from the anterior and posterior (from the front and from the back). These two views will give you a good indication of your neck alignment. You have to know what your neck alignment is before you can start correcting it.
On the lateral neck picture above one can draw a line along the backs of all of the vertical bodies. This is what should look like a "C".
What Does a Normal Neck Curve Look Like? Check Out the Normal Neck Curve on X-ray.
Here is a normal neck curve. This person is standing on their side, looking to the right. Notice the #1-7 labeled on the x-ray. Those represent the 7 bones in the cervical spine: C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6, C7.In terms of alignment,Notice next that the there is a backwards "C" that we could draw on the x-ray to show off the curve. If you cannot visualize the "C" look at the top of this lens.
The Curve in the neck measures 42 degrees. Similar to the C Shape of a banana.
Having a normal neck curve is important for proper motion in the cervical spine. Flexion, Extension, Lateral flexion and rotation are all motions that the cervical spine does. Range of motion and function can be affected when the normal c curve is not intact. See below.
What does Loss of the Cervical Curve Look like?
Loss of the neck curve to where the curve has straightened out
Okay here is another person looking to the right. Notice there is no Curve in this person's cervical curve. It is straight up and down. In fact you could probably take a ruler and draw a straight line down the bones of the neck. In fact you may even have a reversal of the normal curvature; you can see it between segments C4-6. This is known as Military Neck and loss of cervical lordosis, cervical kyphosis or straightening of the cervical spine. To See what happens with this cervical kyphosis continues, look at the x-ray below.
Going in the Other Direction: Cervical Kyphosis
Progression of Loss of the neck curve to where the curve has reversed
Here is another neck x-ray that shows that the neck curve can go in the other direction too. So this neck curve was normal at one point, then straightened out, and then kept going in the other direction. Cervical kyphosis can progress to the point where the curve in the neck actually reverses.
In this x-ray where the curve has turned from the backward C into a regular C. Not Good. Imagine taking the banana and reversing its curve. That is painful just to think about.
Notice also the bone spurs that have grown at levels: C5 and C6. Notice also that the disc space between C5 and C6 has decreased.
So you want to Correct Your Neck Alignment.
Let look at 5 things you can do right now that will affect your neck curve.
It is easy to get into bad habits of neck posture that can cause neck pain, and stiff neck. The Great thing is that you can do something about it.
Get your spine adjusted. See Your Local Chiropractor for a Proper Adjustment of the Spine You may have guessed, you need to visit your chiropractor. I put this one as number one because your chiropractor may also contribute to you doing the next four things on the list better. Also, he or she may recommend x-rays for the neck; this is the best way to see exact alignment. You really only need two, a lateral picture and an AP picture (one from the side, one picture from the front or back). See above x-ray pictures.
Postural Exercises. Put your neck and back into the Right Posture These are what I call mirror image exercises. They are easy to do; the key is to be consistent. For example, one of the most common misalignments is forward head posture. This is when the head shifts forward of where is really should be. The exercise for this is called head retractions where you "retract" your head back, hold, and repeat.
Neck Traction. Stretch Your Spine Traction is extremely important because when posture and alignment have been crooked over a long period, ligaments and muscles tend to shorten or be constantly tension-ed depending on the misalignment. We need to stretch those areas back out to allow correction. What we have found to stretch ligaments is that your everyday stretches won't do the trick. What you need is a sustained stretch over a long period of time. The posture pump 1000 is a great traction unit to use at home.
Be aware of your posture. Are you Slouching During the Day? What exactly do I mean? Well, every day we have stressors or do certain things that can affect our postures negatively. A common example I see with patients are ones that drive a lot of hours for work, or especially lately ones that lose multiple hours at the computer. With these activities your head eventually starts to creep forward (forward head posture). Being aware allows one to say, "Let me take a break for a minute". Just getting up, moving around, and doing a couple of neck stretches makes a huge difference.
Maintain the Work that You have Done. Don't go in the Opposite Direction of the Neck Curve Every day there will be work to do with your head down for hours, or long drives, or a lot of time spent looking down at you iPhone, etc. Doing our list of correction techniques is vital to correct as well as maintain your neck alignment. Continue to do your neck traction, use the arc4life traction pillow at night and continue with the postural exercises that you have been prescribed. Maintaining good neck posture is as important as correcting it in the first place.