Cervical lordosis: Causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention

What is cervical lordosis?

Cervical lordosis is a medical term referring to the degree of curvature of the human neck, pinpointing an exaggerated atypical inward curvature of the neck region. This curve is a physically desirable trait for humans to have, as if you were to lose this natural curvature, it could lead to several physical complications.

To fully understand this natural curvature of the neck, it is important to understand some other conditions involving the cervical lordosis.

Hyperlordosis: A deeper than normal curvature of the neck from back to front. Your head may appear to be pushed forward and possibly rest lower between the shoulders. Essentially, those affected appear to have a purposeful forward extension of their neck.

Hypolordosis: Also known as cervical kyphosis or “military neck.” This condition is characterized by the straightening of the cervical curve. Looking from the side, a person’s neck will appear to be straight up, lacking a natural neck curvature.

The neck is comprised of seven bones that make up the cervical region of your spine. While it is normal to have a slight inward curve to help support the weight of the head, those with loss of cervical lordosis can have neck problems during virtually all aspects of their lives.

What causes cervical lordosis?

While the loss of cervical lordosis is more common in adults, the condition can present in children. Both men and women are affected equally, having no significant predisposition to race or ethnicity. The condition is known to be the result of years of poor posture and muscle spasms of the neck. The following are a few examples of cervical lordosis causes:

Poor posture: This is commonly seen in individuals who work on a computer for long hours, which leads to neck strain. It is this strain on the neck muscles that causes them to pull on the cervical spine, which they are attached to. Over time, poor posture can lead to the misalignment of the cervical spine.

Injury: Direct injury to the cervical spine can lead to a loss of cervical lordosis, meaning that your neck may not lie in its natural position. This can be seen after a whiplash injury.

Osteoporosis: A condition commonly seen in the elderly population where bone becomes more porous as bone density is lost. Because the head weighs a couple of pounds, this put added stress on already fragile bones leading to abnormalities of the cervical spine.

Musculoskeletal disorders: There are pre-existing muscle and skeletal disorders, often at birth, that lead to abnormalities of bone throughout the body including the neck. These may include achondroplasia, kyphosis, and scoliosis.

Importance of healthy cervical curvature

The human spine is made up of 24 moveable bones, also known as the vertebrae. It serves to support your weight, hold you upright and helps you perform any number of intricate movements. It doesn’t stop there as your spine also serves to house your spinal cord, along with a fragile tube-like structure that begins at the end of the brain and continues towards the distal end of the spine. The spinal cord consists of nerves that carry incoming and outgoing signals between the brain and the rest of your body. The cervical vertebrae are just one region of this important structure.

Symptoms of cervical lordosis

Abnormalities of the neck bones can lead to a number of different signs and symptoms. Considering that the cervical region holds within it important nerves that travel to and from the brain, problems involving the neck can lead to several unwanted symptomologies, the following are such examples:

Neck pain/discomfort: The most common problem facing those with an abnormal curvature of neck bones, and generally a result of forwarding head posture. Pain may be experienced as being stabbing or sharp in nature, but some may only experience limited range of movement.

Nerve pain: Due to nerve entrapment, that results from an abnormal curvature of the cervical vertebra pinching a particular nerve. This may lead to tense muscles and other nerve-related symptoms including numbness and tingling in the arms, hands, and fingers.

  • Muscle spasm/weakness
  • Limited physical ability
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Back pain
  • Poor posture

Diagnosing and treating cervical lordosis

Diagnosis of cervical lordosis

The curvature of the neck can be seen by an experienced doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. But to get a better idea of how it develops, a full history and physical examination will often take place. An X-ray is great for looking at bones and will be a great preliminary test looking at cervical vertebral alignment and the degree of curvature.

Treatment for cervical lordosis

Depending on the underlying cause of your particular case of cervical curve abnormality, treatment will differ. But pain medication and muscle relaxants will often be a common point of treatment. If the severity of pain is too great, a neck brace or color may be used to help restrict movement.

The best form of therapy will come in the form of physical therapy. This will help correct improper posture, strengthen muscles, and improve range of motion and flexibility as physiotherapists know how to best restore the natural curve of the neck. However, in extreme cases of cervical lordosis abnormality, surgery may be employed.

Exercises to treat cervical lordosis

Exercises for cervical lordosis abnormality treatment can be a great way for improving pain and increasing mobility, however, they should be done with care. Ideally, cervical lordosis exercises should be done with the guidance of a trained physiotherapist. The following are some examples of exercises to restore cervical curve:

Neck rotation

  • Slowly turn your head from neutral position to the right and left side of your body and back to neutral position again. Turn your neck to each position as far as possible without causing discomfort or pain.
  • Perform this exercise 10 times on each side.

Neck flexion

  • Either from a seated position or standing up, bend your head down so that the chin touches your chest. Maintain the position for a few seconds and then slowly bring the head to neutral position.
  • Perform this exercise 10 to 15 times. It will help flex and maintain the muscles of the neck, which are essential for maintaining normal posture.

Neck retraction exercise

  • Involves forward retraction of the neck, resulting in sliding of the head forward and backward. This can be done in either a seated or standing position.
  • Forward sliding should extend more than backward retraction by about three to four times.
  • Repeat each movement 10 times.

Neck extension

  • Extend the head backward such that your face is looking upward toward the ceiling. Maintain the optimum extension for a few seconds and then bring the head to neutral position.
  • Perform this exercise slowly to prevent injury.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Posterior or backward shoulder retraction

  • Sit or stand with your spine straight and head held in neutral position.
  • Place both hands on the sides of your hip.
  • In this position, retract your shoulders by pushing your arm and shoulder backward.
  • Backward retraction is accomplished by rotating arm outward while the arm is flexed at the elbow joint.
  • Maintain this position for a few seconds and then bring the arm and shoulder back into the original position. Repeat 10 times.

Shoulder shrugs

  • By keeping your arms straight down to your sides, slowly raise your shoulders up toward your head as far as possible.
  • Maintain the shrugging position for a few seconds and then bring your shoulders back to neutral position.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Forward shoulder retraction

  • While keeping your spine straight place your hands on opposite shoulders (right hand on left shoulder, left hand on right shoulder).
  • While keeping your arms flexed at the elbow, maintain this position for a couple of seconds become you bring your arms back into neutral position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

Neck side tilt

  • While keeping your spine straight and starting with your head in neutral position, slowly tilt your head to your right shoulder while looking straight ahead. Now do this for the opposite side.
  • It is important not to rotate your head as you try to bring your ear to each shoulder.
  • Repeat 10 times on each side.

Prevention tips for cervical lordosis

Having chronic neck pain can be very discomforting and prevent us from doing the simplest of daily activities. Most abnormalities involving the neck happen over a long stretch of time, with the patient now knowing they will eventually suffer from cervical complications later down the line. Thankfully, if you were to practice some simple prevention tips, you could help mitigate the problem altogether. The following are some tips you can begin doing today.

Me mindful of your posture: A great source of spine-related pain, as the majority of us spend most of our days sitting or standing with poor posture. Over time, this can lead to changes in the curvature of the spine, especially of the cervical vertebrae. It is recommended to sit and stand with your shoulders back and make sure that you’re not pushing your head forward, and your ears should line up vertically with your shoulders.

Sleep on your back: Sleeping on your stomach can cause spinal curvature to change over time. If you find this too difficult, there are varying pillow types that can help. Also, speaking to a certified chiropractor can yield some additional tips.

Optimize your workplace: Many jobs today require the use of a computer, which can lead to several posture related issues. It is recommended to elevate your monitor about three inches above eye level as looking down on your screen can have a negative effect you’re your neck over time. Also, keeping your feet flat on the floor while you work on a computer will help keep your shoulders back.

Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket: Large bulky wallets in your back pocket can create an imbalance in your posture as you sit.

Visit your chiropractor: When in doubt, it is always a good idea to see an expert. Chiropractors will know how to keep your spinal alignment healthy and can perform a simple physical exam and x-ray testing to make sure you get the best treatment for any potential case of cervical lordosis abnormality.

Related: How common is cervical spondylosis (cervical osteoarthritis)? Causes, symptoms, and treatment of neck arthritis


Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.

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