Cervical lordosis is a curvature of the cervical spine or the vertebrae in the neck region. There is a normal slight curve present in the cervical vertebrae that enables comfortable movement of the neck in a healthy cervical spine. However, when there is a deviation from the normal curve, it can lead to problems. Cervical lordosis is a condition occurring due to excess curvature of the cervical spine, which can lead to pain and discomfort.
The curve in the cervical spine can show great variations and result in varying degrees of complaints. Sometimes, the normal curve straightens out making it difficult to move the neck, sometimes becomes more curved than normal, while sometimes it can be deviated to right or left along with being excessively curved.
Causes of Cervical Lordosis
Cervical lordosis can be a present during childhood or can occur during the course of life, at any age. Some of the common causes of cervical lordosis include:
- Cervical Lordosis Caused Due to Postural Changes – Poor posture, altered ways of sitting, working at the desk or lifting weight can affect the normal curvature of the cervical spine.
- Cervical Lordosis Caused Due to Congenital Conditions – Certain conditions present since birth may cause excessive lordosis of cervical spine.
- Cervical Lordosis Caused Due to Musculoskeletal Conditions – Other conditions affecting the curvature of the spine, like kyphosis, scoliosis, etc. Weakening of the bones as in osteoporosis. Disorders affecting intervertebral discs like discitis, disc herniation or prolapse. Changes in the position of the vertebrae like spondylolisthesis.
Sometimes, injury or a long standing muscle spasm results in changes in normal curvature, which can lead to either straightening of the spine or excessive lordosis.
Symptoms of Cervical Lordosis
Cervical lordosis may be visible as an arch in the cervical spine, noticed as a swayed back neck. It is often noticed that there may be extra space in between the neck and the surface on which you are lying down. Usually people experience discomfort in making neck movements and the range of motion may be restricted.
Pain is often accompanied with difficulty in turning the neck. In some long standing cases, pain may not be felt but the excess curvature can continue to limit regular activities. The muscles around the neck, shoulders and upper back are usually tensed and may be painful to touch. Muscle spasms are commonly noted and may also cause difficulty in moving the neck, raising hands or lifting weights.
If a nerve gets trapped due abnormal curvature of the spine or the tensed muscle, it can also lead to nerve related symptoms. Sometimes, numbness and tingling may be noted in the arms, hands and fingers.
While this condition and muscles spasm often subsides with proper treatment, if left unattended it can progress to cause more difficulty. If there occurs any weakness in the hands and fingers or difficulty in maintaining control, immediate medical attention may be required. Also, changes in the curvature of the spine can lead to further changes in the nearby joints, structures and cause further problems.
Diagnosis of Cervical Lordosis
Cervical lordosis is diagnosed by considering medical history and clinical examination. Often X-rays and scans may be advised to understand the degree of curvature and are co-related with clinical complaints. It may be difficult to assess the changes in vertebrae, the extent of fusion and the excess curvature, but an appropriate diagnosis can be made by an expert.
Treatment of Cervical Lordosis
Treatment is mainly based on the cause of cervical lordosis, along with symptomatic treatment. Pain medications, muscles relaxants, nerve tonics and nutritional supplements including vitamin D may be given. Depending on the severity of the neck pain and difficulty in neck movements due to cervical lordosis, brace or a neck collar may be advised.
Physical therapy and exercises are often helpful in muscle strengthening, improving range of motion and flexibility. Healthy lifestyle and maintaining ideal body weight is advised to relieve excessive strain on the spine.
In extreme cases of cervical lordosis, surgery may be required.
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis
Neck exercises to manage cervical lordosis include:
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis #1: Neck Rotation
- Neck rotation is turning the head to right or left side. Head is slowly turned from neutral position to right and left side. Turn your neck to one side as much as possible and maintain optimum rotation position for a couple of seconds.
- o Slowly bring head in neutral position.
- o Then turn your neck to opposite side as much as possible and maintain optimum rotation position for a couple of seconds before bringin the neck to the neutral position.
Exercise is repeated 10 times on each side.
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis #2: Neck Flexion
- Neck flexion Exercise can be performed either in sitting or standing position.
- Bend the head down so that the chin touches. Maintain the position for few seconds and then slowly bring the head to neutral position.
- Neck flexion is assisted by contraction of neck muscles that are located in front of the neck.
- Neck flexion at the same time stretches the muscle of the back of cervical spine.
- Exercise helps to maintain tone of the flexor and extensor muscles.
- The muscle tone is essential to maintain normal posture of the head and neck.
- Repeat the exercise 10 to 15 times.
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis #3: Neck Retraction Exercise
- In this exercise, neck can be retracted forward or backward. Forward retraction of the neck result in sliding of head forward and backward retraction of the neck involves sliding the head backward.
- Forward sliding distance of the neck is 3 to 4 times more than backward sliding of the neck.
- Forward and backward retraction of the neck helps in strengthening the neck muscle essential for maintaining normal posture of head.
- Exercise and strengthening of these muscles helps in maintaining normal posture of head.
- Repeat forward and backward retraction 10 times or more.
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis #4: Neck Extension
- In Neck Extension exercise head is pulled and tilted backward such that the face is looking upwards towards the ceiling. Maintain the optimum extension for few seconds and then bring the head to neutral position.
- The neck extension movement is done slowly to prevent injury of the facet joint.
- Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Exercise for Cervical Lordosis #5: Posterior or Backward Shoulder Retraction
- Sit or stand straight with your spine erect and head held in neutral position.
- Rest both your arms on the lateral side of hip.
- Backward shoulder retraction is performed by pushing arm and shoulder backward.
- Backward retraction is accomplished by rotating arm outward while arm is flex at elbow joint.
- Maintain the shoulder in backward retracted position for brief period and then bring the arm and shoulder in neutral position.
- Repeat the exercise for 10 times.
Exercise for Cervical Lordosis #6: Shoulder Shrugs
- Shoulder shrug exercise can be performed in standing or sitting position.
- Keep your hands straight on either side of the body.
- Slowly raise your shoulder up towards head as far as possible and maintain the position for brief period.
- Bring the shoulders back to the neutral position.
- Repeat the exercise 10 times.
Exercise for Cervical Lordosis #7: Forward Shoulder Retraction
- Forward shoulder shrug exercise can be done either in sitting or standing position, while keeping the spine erect.
- Forward shoulder retraction movement is done by touching hand to opposite shoulder while arm is kept fleedx at elbow joint.
- Maintain the arm in forward retraction position for brief period and then bring the arm and shoulder in neutral position.
- Repeat the exercise for 10 times.
Exercises for Cervical Lordosis #8: Neck Side Tilt
- Neck Side Tilt exercise can be done in sitting or standing position while keeping the pine erect. Start with keeping the head in neutral position. Slowly tilt the head to one side as far as possible. Neck side tilt exercise is performed while looking straight ahead and without bending the neck forward.
- Tilt the head but do not rotate the head. Try bringing the ear towards the shoulder.
- Maintain the head in optimum tilt position for brief period and bring the head to neutral position.
- Repeat exercise 10 times on each side.
You must discuss all these exercise with your physician and physical therapist. Most of these exercises are explained and taught during physical therapy sessions for neck pain. Exercise should be discontinued if exercise results in pain, dizziness, vertigo, spinning or muscle spasm. Consult your physician if you experience any other abnormal symptoms.