What is Straight or ‘Military’ Neck?

military neck

Cervical kyphosis also known as straight neck or ‘Military’ neck is a very common issue that many deal with on a day to day to basis. Like the spine, your neck has a natural curvature that helps maintain posture and balance. Losing this natural curvature can lead to a whole host of concerns including back pain, stiffness, fatigue, numbness, weakness, or shortness of breath. We’re going to look at why spinal curvature matters and provide you with some tips on how to minimise stress through the joints and reduce straight neck problems.

Why do spinal curves matter?

“Loss of the natural curve of the cervical spine leads to incrementally increased stresses about the cervical spine.” – Kenneth K. Hansraj, M.D. (Assessment of stresses in the cervical spine caused by posture and position of the head, and spine surgery, Nov. 2014, Vol. 25: pp.277-279

The balanced spine should have natural curves:

  • The lower back and neck are concave – we call this ‘lordosis’
  • The mid-back is convex – we call this ‘kyphosis’

These curves are an important part of your body’s posture providing you with balance and support. Too much curve, or not enough curve can lead to issues in the spine and neck. Military neck is one such issue.

Structure of the spine

What are the symptoms of ‘Military neck’?

What this means is that if our neck is straightening, that very straightening will cause increased stress through the joints and muscles of the spine.  In other words, it’s a problem that turns into a vicious circle, compounding the problem. These problems can develop a range of factors including poor posture during childhood, abnormal vertebrae and spinal development problems. It can also be caused by conditions like osteoporosis and Paget’s disease.

So what does a military neck look like? If you look at an x-ray of a healthy neck and a military neck, you’ll notice the normal curve on the healthy neck, and a straightened ‘military’ neck.

Straight neck x ray

Tips for minimising straight neck problems

Whether or not you have issues with straight neck; here are some tips to minimise stress through the joints of the neck.

Tip 1 – Consider your work environment

Any excess pressures on the neck will put more stress through the joints.  Do all you can to increase movement at work and reduce a forward head carriage (head forwards, or looking down).

iPads, phones and screens should generally be held higher to avoid these postures; they are becoming more and more common!

Tip 2 – Consider Your Pillow

After working for approximately 1/3 of your day, most of us tend to sleep for about 1/3 of our day. It’s important to make sure that the pillow you use supports your neck, and encourages a good curve.  We like pillows from ‘Sissel’, a Swedish company who make excellent orthopaedic pillows. 

Tip 3 – Encourage Rotation with Extension

Try this exercise at least twice a day.  Rotate your neck and hold it for 5 seconds.  Do this on both sides for 5 repetitions. Now repeat this with a little bit of extension (leaning your head back), so that you look into the corner of the room behind you.

If you have any symptoms such as dizziness, headache or nausea please speak to your chiropractor or GP before continuing.

What we can do to help

At Relief Chiropractic Health Clinic, based in Cambridge, we specialise in treating patients with gentle and effective techniques to restore normal function, reduce back pain and improve everyday life. 

A body that has minimal stress and restriction can be free to move.  That’s how you can fully enjoy all of what life has to offer. If you want to find out more about Military neck or are interested in finding out more about treating back pain then please book an appointment or contact us today.