The cervical spine refers to the neck region of the spine that supports the body. In a relaxed position, the typical cervical spine has a “C” shaped curve called lordosis. The opening of the curve goes toward the back of the neck.
Kyphosis is the opposite of lordosis. Cervical means relating to the neck. While the human anatomy has curves, cervical kyphosis is either an abnormally straight neck spine or one that’s bent backward. The straighter or more pronounced the neck spine is, the more serious the condition tends to be with more side effects.
People with the condition look like they are standing at attention like in the military. Obviously, the condition has nothing to do with the military other than mimic the “at attention” stance.
What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Cervical Kyphosis?
The normal wear and tear of aging on the disc between the vertebrae can open the door to a variety of problems. One of those is degenerative disc disease, which can cause military neck. The disc dries out and flattens. As the disc gets thinner, it can collapse and send the head tilting forward. This causes an imbalance pushing the neck forward eventually increasing the curve that leads to kyphosis.
Kyphosis can also occur at birth. This is called congenital kyphosis. The birth defect affects the development of the spine. The spine may not form completely and the vertebrae take on a triangle shape in the growth process. Often, someone born with congenital kyphosis has complications in other parts of the body.
The third cause of military neck is an iatrogenic disorder. It’s the result of an unintended consequence from a medical procedure. And the final cause of cervical kyphosis is trauma, such as a car accident, sports injury, or a fall.
The most common symptoms of cervical kyphosis include the following:
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
It’s possible there may be radiating pain in the arms, hands, and fingers because of pinched nerves originating in the neck. Other symptoms include decreased range of motion, muscle weakness, bladder and bowel control problems, and coordination problems.
How Cervical Kyphosis Is Diagnosed and Treated?
To diagnose military neck, a healthcare provider will review the patient’s medical history and ask about symptoms. This follows with a physical exam and imaging test such as an X-ray, CT, or MRI to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other causes. The physician will make a diagnosis based on the curve of the neck, whether it’s less than 20 degrees or more than 40.
Treatment depends on whether there is pressure on the spinal cord. If so, the physician may recommend surgery. If the issue is pain and appearance, then the physician will most likely recommend physical therapy.
The doctor or physical therapist may advise other treatments, such as resting the neck, using a contour pillow to correctly position the neck while sleeping, and getting a massage. Ice and heat therapy are also options. The good news is that patients with cervical kyphosis often respond to noninvasive treatments.
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