CERVICAL LORDOSIS TREATMENT
What is Cervical Lordosis?
Cervical lordosis refers to the natural curve of the spine in the neck, known as the cervical spine. From top to bottom, a healthy spine forms an “S” shape, with a healthy cervical spine forming a gentle “C” at the top.
This curve not only helps the spine maintain stability and structure, but it also helps absorb shocks, supports the weight of the head and keeps it aligned over the body, and allows the neck to move and bend normally.
When this curve is exaggerated in one way or another, it can affect the tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones, and nerves, and spinal cord in the neck. As such, the condition needs to be addressed to prevent injury and further complications.
The term “cervical lordosis” normally applies to cases in which there is an abnormal, excessive inward curve (hyperlordosis) or a pronounced lack of curve (hyperlordosis). Less common are cases in which the curve is running in the wrong direction, also called reverse cervical lordosis, and cases involving a curve to the right or left.
Common causes include traumatic injury, poor posture, obesity, osteoporosis, and conditions like degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis. Lordosis can also occur as a result of inherited conditions like achondroplasia (dwarfism) or certain neuromuscular disorders.
If the curve of the spine is only mildly exaggerated and there isn’t any pain or other symptoms, medical treatment may not be necessary.
When the curve is pronounced enough that it causes problems, the treatment approach often depends on the severity and the cause. For example, lordosis caused by muscle weakness or being overweight often improve with simple interventions like weight management and exercises that strengthen the neck.
Other components of treatment usually include:
- Medications (NSAIDs) to reduce pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy to build strength and increase range of motion
- Weight loss programs to reduce load and improve posture
- Nutritional supplements to improve bone health (vitamin D, calcium)
In adolescents whose spines are not finished growing, braces to control the progression of the curvature may be an option. Bracing is typically not effective in adults as their spines have finished growing and are not as flexible.
In cases where there is a severe curvature – especially where there are symptoms of nerve compression – surgery may be recommended. The type(s) of surgery recommended depends on the age and overall health of the patient, as well as the cause of the curve in the first place.
Cervical lordosis symptoms vary greatly from person to person. For many, a visible change in the neck alignment (commonly referred to as a “swayback” neck) may be the only sign, especially if the curve isn’t compressing any nerves or vertebrae.
Because the neck needs to constantly support the head, in people with an abnormal curve, the muscles often have to do more work. This results in these muscles being pulled in different directions as the body tries to compensate.
As a result, the most common symptoms of cervical lordosis are:
- Pain in the neck, which may extend to the shoulders and upper back
- Muscle spasms and tightness
- Limited mobility
Other, more serious symptoms can also occur as a result of pressure on the nerves in the cervical spine, including things such as:
- Numbness, tingling, and electric-shock type pains in the arms, legs, and feet
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty controlling muscles
- Difficulty controlling bladder function
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to make an appointment with a physician as soon as possible, as they can lead to serious and possibly irreversible nerve damage.
Is Cervical Lordosis Serious?
Most cases of cervical lordosis initially present with minor symptoms and don’t pose an immediate threat to the patient’s health. However, if steps aren’t taken to address the condition, it will almost certainly worsen over time. This eventually leads to pain and long-term discomfort.
Other risks include:
Increased vulnerability to injury – An abnormal curve means the neck can’t distribute mechanical stress as well as it should (often due to muscle weakness and instability), which makes you more vulnerable to spinal injuries resulting from impacts such as in a car accident or fall.
Disc degeneration and weakness – The spinal tension caused by the abnormal curve results in increased pressure on the discs of the spine, which contributes to the degeneration of the vertebrae and discs. This can lead to a bulging or herniated disc, as well as conditions like cervical spinal stenosis and cervical myelopathy.
Changes to posture and appearance – While it may not be painful or uncomfortable, the misalignment of the spine due to lordosis can cause obvious changes to your physical appearance, including forwarding head posture and an overall asymmetrical appearance.
Cervical Lordosis in Children
Usually, when cervical lordosis occurs in children, it does not have a cause. Called benign juvenile lordosis, this condition is typically the result of muscle weakness or tightness in the hips. In most cases, this condition corrects itself as the child gets older. If not, specific exercises may be prescribed to improve muscle tension and build strength in the hips.
There are also certain rare conditions that can lead to lordosis in children, including:
- Cerebral palsy
- Myelomeningocele, a condition in which the spinal cord protrudes through a gap in the bones of the back
- Muscular dystrophy
- Spinal muscular atrophy
- Arthrogryposis, a condition that causes stiffness and prevents a normal range of motion in joints
If you think your child may have an abnormal curve to their neck caused by cervical lordosis, it’s important to have them seen by a physician who specializes in complex spine conditions. A trained orthopedic spine specialist has specialized training to detect these kinds of conditions and determine the best course of treatment.
How is Cervical Lordosis Diagnosed?
At Southwest Scoliosis Institute, Dr. Richard Hostin, Dr. Shyam Kishan, and Dr. Kathryn Wiesman start every exam with a thorough physical assessment. Diagnostic testing, including bend tests, allows them to detect any loss of flexibility, gauge range of motion, and check on the alignment of the spine to determine if there are any irregularities associated with cervical lordosis or other conditions.
They will also go over the patient’s medical and family history to help them identify any risk factors. Our orthopedic spine specialists will also take the time to address symptoms and concerns, as well as answer any questions you may have, and discuss the treatment options available.
If the clinician suspects cervical lordosis, they will order tests, including X-ray imaging using our advanced EOS X-ray system. Located right in our office, it allows us to take full-body images from the front, back, and sides. Using these images, our doctors are able to build a 3D model of the patient’s spine so they can accurately measure the extent of any abnormal curvature.
Additional imaging may be necessary to determine if there is any compression of the nerves or spinal cord and may include tests like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans.
If you or your loved one is suffering from degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, or another complex spine condition, there is hope. We can help. Call Southwest Scoliosis Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.