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Why is the Cervical Curve Important?

by | May 3, 2022

Most people believe that your spine should be straight. This is partially true. When looking at your spine from behind, it should be straight and level. However, when viewing it from the side, there should be three curves to the spine. Your neck, also known as the cervical spine, should have a forward curve (lordosis). Your upper back, the thoracic spine, should have a backward curve (kyphosis). And your low back, known as the lumbar spine, should also have a forward curve (lordosis). The curves in your spine are not there by accident. They serve very useful purposes.

The normal curve of the cervical spine should be approximately 40 degrees and your head should be balanced above your shoulders. Why is this important?

The average adult human head weights approximately 10 to 11 pounds. A normal cervical curve allows your head to balance above your shoulders with relative ease, requiring minimal effort from the neck muscles to keep it upright. If the curve decreases, your head tends to translate forward. This forward head position places significant stress upon those muscles to keep your head from falling forward. For every inch of forward head position there is an additional ten pounds of stress on the muscles in your neck. That is why your neck may always feel tense. You may get a massage to help relax those muscles, but unless the decreased curve in your neck is addressed, the tension always comes back in a couple of days.

The bones in your spine, known as vertebrae, have a pair of small joints on the back of them. Your neck is designed to carry most of the weight of your head on these joints. The cervical curve functions as a shock absorber, dissipating the stress from the weight of your head. If this curve is decreased, absent, or reversed, it is impossible for your neck to carry the weight of your head on these joints to the extent it should. You then carry more of this weight on the bodies of the vertebrae and on the discs in between them. Over time this stress accelerates the degeneration of the bones and discs in your cervical spine. If not corrected, this can lead to significant deterioration of your spine.

Another reason the curve in your neck is so important is that it helps to regulate the tension on your brainstem and spinal cord. If there is too much tension on these delicate structures, it can interfere with their function. A normal cervical curve allows your neck to move freely without placing sustained tension on them. Loss of this curve can cause neurological issues such as migraines, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and vertigo (dizziness) to name a few. Over time, loss of the cervical curve has also been shown to negatively affect heart, lung, and digestive function.

Caring for your posture and maintaining a normal curve in your neck is not only important for how you look and feel, but also vital for your overall health.

Dr. David Iszler

Dr. David Iszler graduated Summa Cum Laude from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa in 1994. Dr. Iszler practiced in Casper, Wyoming for 24 years before selling his practice to move to Arizona. He now practices in Glendale, where he is blessed to serve families in the Northwest Valley. He and his wife, Sheryl, are also sought-after wellness speakers, sharing health and wellness advice with businesses and organizations in his community.