When looking at a spine from the front or back, we all know we want it to be straight. If it is curved, this is what we know as scoliosis. We don’t want that. What we do want is curves in the spine if we are looking from the side.
The curves in the upper cervical neck area, upper/mid, and lower back help our spine support the weight of our body. If they are in the proper shape, and the proper biomechanics, we are in good shape. When the curve is lost and the spine goes straight, or even worse, the curve reverses, it sets us up for a number of problems.
The spine is pretty sturdy when it is healthy and flexible. It is a matter of teamwork, and every part of the spine shares in the load. The bones, discs, muscles, ligaments etc., all do a portion of the work. If the spine loses the normal curve, the weight shifts, and much more is placed on the bones and discs. This can lead to two conditions, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. When placed under too much stress, the bones will grow larger, and the discs will shrink or become displaced.
There is a physiological law called Wolff’s Law. Wolff’s Law states that a bone placed under increased stress will change itself over time to accommodate the load. In other words, if your vertebrae have increased weight (due to the loss of curve) they begin to grow. This leads to degeneration, arthritis, bone spurs, and spinal stenosis. Stenosis is simply the narrowing of a space. In this case the space that narrows is your spinal canal. If it gets severe enough, it begins to impact the spinal cord and can lead to a number of neurological complications.
A loss of curve can also dramatically impact the health of the spinal discs. Two main issues can occur with an unhealthy disc. First, it can thin and decrease the space between the vertebrae. This is so important, because the spinal nerves exit the spinal cord in the space between the vertebrae, above and below. If this space narrows, things like numbness and tingling in the arms and legs can occur. The other main issue is a disc herniation or bulge. This can create very serious issues and severe pain. The disc pushes out of its normal position and into the spinal cord or spinal nerve, which usually causes a lot of pain.
One of the main influences of spinal position is the position of our head. If the head is where it should be, then the spine is free to be in a correct position. What often happens in a trauma like a car accident, slip or fall, or head trauma, is the upper neck gets misaligned. Since the head sits on the top bone of the spine, movement of the top bone will take the head with it. If the head is off center, the spine will do whatever it has to do to accommodate for this position. This leads to a loss of the curve.
The good news is correcting the upper cervical misalignment will return the head to its proper position, and allow the curves to return to normal. The great news is spinal stenosis and disc issues are reversible. Once the proper mechanics are restored, the body no longer needs the extra bone so it will begin to remove it. The proper mechanics also remove the stress on the discs, and can lead to them beginning to resume their normal size and position.
Just like children are screened for scoliosis, every child and adult should be screened for this other type of spinal curve in the upper cervical area. If you are already dealing with degeneration and stenosis, you should be evaluated immediately to see if you can be helped.
We offer a free evaluation to determine if your upper cervical spine is in the proper shape and working correctly. We specialize in making sure your head is on straight, ensuring proper spinal health. Call us at Upper Cervical Health Centers of Fort Myers for your free consultation today, 239-243-8810!
Dr. Lee Angle
Dr. Lee Angle is originally from southern West Virginia. After having his life changed through Upper Cervical Care he chose to pursue it as a career. He has been practicing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for over nine years. Dr. Angle previously worked as a certified personal trainer. This background allows him to educate his patients on proper movement and exercises to speed their recovery and enhance their Upper Cervical Care.