Q: I was recently told that I have arthritis in my neck and lower back, most likely caused by a couple of old auto accident injuries that were never properly treated. My medical doctor took x-rays and told me that the arthritis was probably caused by abnormal curves in my neck. I didn’t even know we had curves in our neck! Can you explain what he meant by that? --Dwayne O., Naples, Florida
A: Your doctor was referring to improper biomechanics in your neck (cervical spine) that allowed the gradual formation of arthritis. Spinal biomechanics refers to the structure of the spine and the forces that affect it. The spinal column was designed with alternating curves in the neck, middle back, lower back, and the pelvis that enable the body to stand up (literally) to the load that gravity puts on it as it pushes down from the top of your head, traveling through the spine, all the way to your tailbone. The individual vertebrae are stacked on top of each other in a way that enables them to handle the stresses or loads put on them through gravity and the weight of the muscles that are attached to them.
When our spinal vertebrae are properly aligned, our bones are able to properly support our weight, reducing effort and fatigue. When our body is “structurally sound”, meaning body weight (load) is appropriately distributed to minimize strain, we feel healthier, have more energy, and have less physical complaints. Ideally, the head, rib cage, pelvis and feet should all be aligned and balanced upon the other, both from the front and side views. The spine should be straight and vertical from the front. From the side the spine should have normal alternating curves to allow for normal pain-free, maximal range of motion and movement.
When the curves are less than they should be, it causes a distortion of the alignment of vertebrae, causing an abnormal distribution of body weight. As gravity pushes straight down on the body, a decreased curve in your neck (hypolordotic curve) will allow uneven distribution of the weight of the head onto the vertebrae. The altered biomechanics changes the way the neck moves and holds up to the stresses put on it, and the arthritic process will most likely begin. Over time, as the body attempts to compensate for these disproportionate stresses, these disease processes may become accelerated and irreversible.
Dr. Misty Green is a local Chiropractor serving the Cape Coral/North Fort Myers, Florida area for over 20 years. She can be reached at (239) 772-5777 to schedule an appointment. Check out our website at AskDrMisty.com for short and sweet video health tips.
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