The cervical spine is C shaped with its curve facing towards the back of neck. The spinal area in neck is called cervical spine and it is made up of 7 cervical vertebra. A normal healthy cervical spine has a slight lordotic curve and it is anatomically important to bear the weight of head.
Loss of cervical lordosis can result in straightening of cervical spine or in severe cases it can reverse the curve. The condition is also called cervical kyphosis. Loss of cervical lordosis can result in pain and stiffness in neck. It can also lead to referred pain in hand, vertigo and many other symptoms which we will discuss later on.
Improper posture and muscular spasm are two important causes for loss of cervical curvature. The problem is usually detected on X-ray of cervical spine and it should be treated soon to prevent further deterioration and complications later on.
Causes Of Loss Of Cervical Lordosis
Loss of cervical curvature usually occurs in adults. Children randomly suffer from this problem.
- Working on a computer for long periods or doing desk work for long time without taking break can strain the muscles of neck. The strained muscles cause a pull on the cervical vertebra to which they are attached. Prolonged pull will then mechanically disturb the normal alignment of the cervical spine.
- Injury to cervical spine may also lead to loss of cervical lordosis. A whiplash while driving motor vehicle, direct trauma on the neck can all contribute to muscle spasm and loss of curvature of cervical spine.
- Osteoporosis is another important factor that may cause abnormality in cervical spine curvature. It is mainly seen among elderly individuals. In osteoporosis the vertebra becomes porus and the bone density is lost. The weight of head and normal wear and tear may put pressure on the spine leading to loss of curvature.
- Obesity and hereditary skeletal disorders such as achondroplacia can also alter the curvature of spine. Other less common causes of loss of cervical lordosis include tumor of cervical spine, systemic disease such as ankylosing spondylitis etc. Radiotherapy for cancer involving neck can also cause loss of cervical spine curvature.
Loss Of Cervical Lordosis Symptoms
Loss of cervical lordosis is an ongoing gradual process. It is rarely a sudden phenomenon. In its beginning phase the condition remains silent. It means there are no obvious symptoms. And frequently it is detected accidentally on X-ray meant for some other purpose. However, after few months or years patient may present with complaints such as pain in neck and stiffness.
A normal cervical lordosis has 30 to 40 degree curve. Patient may complain on neck pain when the curve becomes lesser than 20 degrees. Later on if the condition remains untreated it may lead to cervical disc degeneration and lead to symptoms such as pins and needles, tingling in hands and fingers. These symptoms are not exactly those due to loss of cervical lordosis, but because of pinched cervical nerve from compression of cervical vertebra.
Loss of cervical lordosis also leads to tension in the spinal cord and carotid blood vessels which supply blood to brain. Improper blood flow in the brain can lead to dizziness, headaches, confusion, tinnitus etc.
Treatment Options For Loss Of Cervical Lordosis
Loss of cervical lordosis can be detected on physical examination as well as from diagnostic tests such as X-ray and MRI of cervical spine. These tests are important to know the extent of loss of cervical lordosis and nerve damage.
- Medical treatment is only required when pain and stiffness are present. Pain killers and muscle relaxants will help to reduce pain and spasms of neck muscles. This will ease the discomfort and increase the range of motion of neck.
- Once initial acute symptoms are relieved patient should begin physiotherapy exercises aimed at strengthening the neck muscles and improvement of posture. A simple neck exercise is to bend the head forward and backward. Second exercise is to turn the neck and head sideways five to six times in a day.
- Severe case of loss of cervical lordosis may require the patient to wear brace during day time and support pillows while sleeping. Both will help to bring back the altered abnormal curvature of the cervical spine.