One of the most common conditions today is straight neck syndrome or loss of neck curve. A normal neck posture is a backward c-shaped curve of the neck which allows for the proper balancing of the head over the shoulders. The normal cervical lordosis develops around the 2nd and 3rd months when the child learns to keep his head upright against gravity. We find that well over 50 percent of our patient population comes into our office with straight neck syndrome.
This postural distortion leads to a cascade of musculoskeletal effects throughout the body that can lead to a host of common musculoskeletal conditions. Straight neck syndrome is caused by neck injury at the base of the skull. The body's postural centers are located in the brainstem which is housed by the atlas and axis vertebrae. Injuries to the neck can cause spinal misalignment that leads to postural imbalance due to brain stem irritation.
How Straight Neck Syndrome Can Cause Many Common Musculoskeletal Conditions
The average human head weighs 10-13 pounds and sits on a two-ounce bone which makes the cranial cervical junction susceptible to injury. When humans are subject to a sharp jarring trauma, the top vertebra called the atlas at the floor of the skull can dislodge and become locked. When this happens, it puts mechanical traction on the spinal cord and brain stem and that affects the body's postural centers.
Brain-stem irritation causes the scalene muscles (muscles on the lower sides of the neck) to contract. These are three pairs of muscles that flank the lower side of the neck. When they become tight they pull the head forward and flatten the normal cervical curve. In response to the head's weight shifting forward, the mid-back muscles (between the shoulder blades) become tight as the body attempts to keep the head upright against gravity.
The musculoskeletal adaptation sets the stage for several common symptoms and syndromes. Numbness and tingling in the arms are often related to straight neck syndrome. The brachial plexus (arm nerve plexus) can become entrapped by the lower neck muscles and produce numbness and tingling in the arms. Thoracic outlet syndrome is another condition that can result from a straight neck also related to the thoracic outlet becoming smaller due to muscle tightness and structural encroachment from loss of cervical curve. Other obvious conditions resulting from an upper neck injury and straight neck syndrome are neck pain, mid-back pain, upper arm pain, and other chronic muscle pain syndromes.
Loss of cervical curve and spinal cord tension
One thing that we have not discussed is straight neck syndrome is how it can affect the brainstem and spinal cord. The brainstem and spinal cord embryologically were meant to fit in a normal neck curve. When neck injury occurs, and the cervical spine loses its normal curve this puts tensile stress on the spinal cord, often referred to as tethering of the spinal cord. When the neck loses its normal curve, it is similar to two people pulling on the end of a rope. The straightening of the curve pulls on the cord through the base of the skull because the brain is anchored inside the cranial vault. Tethering of the spinal cord causes irritation to the cord and decreases the efficiency of the central nervous system which can lead to a host of chronic health conditions.
How Can Upper Cervical Health Care address straight neck syndrome?
We have discussed that straight neck syndrome results from an upper neck injury that causes irritation to the postural centers in the brain stem. In our offices we practice a technique called Blair upper cervical chiropractic care we focus on the junction between the head and the neck. We want to know have you sustained a prior neck injury and, if you have, how has the injury caused the upper neck to misalign from normal. We determine the direction of spinal misalignment through very precise digital x-ray imaging. Imaging allows us to visualize exactly how the joints of the neck have misaligned, so we can then make precise gentle corrections to restore normal joint motion and normal neurology. Once the UNDERLYING reason for straight neck syndrome is corrected the body will then make every attempt possible to structurally move back to normal posture.
In our offices, we see people with neck pain, headaches, migraines, Meniere’s disease, post-concussion syndrome, insomnia, and people with emotional problems. All these conditions can have their root cause resulting from a neck injury. Anyone who is suffering from chronic health problems should be evaluated by an upper cervical doctor to see if the cervical spine is playing a role in your health condition. At the consultation, the doctor will run you through an explanation of the premise upon which upper cervical care functions. Then the doctor will run you through a battery of tests to determine if you had an upper neck injury in the past.
Dr. Nick Tedder is located in Dacula GA and services the communities of Atlanta, Auburn, Austell, Braselton, Buford, Cumming, Dacula, Duluth, Dunwoody, East Point, Flowery branch, Gainesville, Grayson, Hoschton, Hamilton Mill, Johns Creek, Lanier Islands, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Norcross, Suwanee, and Winder.
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