What is the Cervical Curve?
“The cervical curve is located in the neck area and contains the first seven vertebrae of your spine. It begins directly below your skull at the atlas vertebrae and ends above the thoracic spine. A healthy cervical curve resembles a wide, backward “C” shape and according to Dr. Travis Russell, D.C., chiropractic director of Chiro One Wellness Center of Naperville, the ideal cervical curve is approximately 42 degrees when standing upright.
Cervical Curvature Starts with Tummy Time
Infants are born with spines curved like the letter “C” and this makes sense when you think about how babies are positioned in utero. At a few months old, the cervical curve starts to form due to that important “tummy time”—the period when infants begin holding their heads up while lying on their stomachs and crawling. The lumbar curve then develops as infants start to walk, and these two critical curves slightly resemble an “S” shape in healthy adult spines.
How Do Cervical Curves Reduce?
Dr. Travis explains that the cervical spine loses curvature due to both major and minor traumas to the body. “Physical stresses like car accidents, slips, falls and sports injuries can reduce one or more of your spinal curvatures,” he says. “Plus micro traumas, such as sitting with poor posture and poor sleeping habits—like sleeping on your stomach or using unsupportive pillows or too many pillows—put our spines in a compromised position.”
What You Can Do
Dr. Travis urges us to take control of some of the elements that contribute to cervical curvature reduction. An important step is to keep your head directly above your shoulders. “For every inch of forward head posture, the weight of the head on the spine increases by an additional 10 pounds,” he explains. “Research indicates that continuous forward head posture leads to long-term muscle strain, disc herniation, arthritis and pinched nerves.”
Dr. Travis also recommends being checked by a doctor of chiropractic for cervical curve loss and its severity, or osteoarthritis. “Your chiropractor will create a customized plan for correcting, reversing or preventing the continued degeneration,” he says.