The great concern with back problems, beyond pain, is losing the ability to function normally on a daily basis. Overuse of the neck to compensate for the lack of movement of the thoracic or middle region is behind a great many neck problems. While people often complain of a problem in their neck and/or lower back (and both areas certainly have their share of problems), the originating source 90% of the time is that the mid back has locked up and is moving as a group of vertebrae versus individual vertebrae. This means the neck and lower back do more work to compensate. And compensate they do… for days, weeks, months, even years. Sometimes decades. But finally the well runs dry.
With the neck, there is a common condition that is referred to as a military neck. This condition is usually the result of a completely flattened neck curve, a flattening of the mid-back curve, and an increased lower back curve. As the neck curve diminishes, motion is lost. A military neck is often aided in returning to normal curvature by lying on roll towels, thus promoting the molding of proper spinal curvature.
As a test, tuck your chin real tight. This removes the neck curve. Now try to rotate your head. Difficult isn’t it?
Sometimes blunt trauma results in complete reverse curvature of the neck. Auto collisions (whiplash) often cause hyperextension of the cervical spine.
A whiplash in some cases causes immediate damage, in others its effects may not show up until later. After an automobile collision — days, weeks, even months later — many people experience such symptoms as headaches, dizziness, or loss of balance. These occur long after the cuts and bruises have healed. Where do the symptoms originate? Often, they are the result of an improperly healed spine. Whiplash has the effect of literally tearing your head off your shoulders, displacing vertebrae in the process. This section stretches and tears muscles and ligaments that often never fully recover.
Vertebrae displaced through the force of a whiplash damages the nerve roots as they exit the spinal cord. The result can be a lifetime of various disabilities, including paralysis. Whiplash is comparable to the tension strength of a spring. When you stretch a spring too far, it can never go back to its normal position. So is the case with the ligaments that help to reinforce the spinal column. This can be avoided, or at least minimized, by strengthening the muscles of the neck through movement. A good car seat with a properly fitted functional headrest will greatly reduce the chances of whiplash in the event of a vehicular collision.
It is vital that the spine be checked after any injury to ensure that there is no major damage to the structure. Don’t confuse this with looking for broken bones, torn muscles, or ligaments. Consider your posture and overall position of your spinal column as a result of any accident or injury.
Another common result of whiplash is a condition known as “stair stepping” of the disks and vertebrae. The angle of the vertebrae is such that each one protrudes a little further than the one above or below it, like stairs. Insurance companies will tell you how often whiplash injuries require long-term treatment. For some it is for life.
PROBLEMS OF THE MID-BACK
The thoracic spine has a normal curvature that runs in the opposite direction of the cervical curve above it and the lumbar curve below it. Too often, due to Upper Cross Syndrome and technology, people have too much curvature in the thoracic region. This creates that classic bent-over posture associated with old age. Over time this literally alters the shape of the vertebrae themselves. With too much curvature of the vertebrae in the thoracic region, they are no longer rectangular in shape as they should be. Instead, they become wedge-shaped, narrower in the front than in the back. The modifying of the shape of vertebrae themselves is telltale evidence of the stress one’s posture has been under over the years. At this point the desire is to keep the shape from getting worse.
In the process of aging, a condition known as osteoporosis, a thinning of the calcium structure of the bones, often develops. As a result, the front portion of the spinal vertebrae collapses even faster into the shape of a wedge instead of a rectangle.
Compression fractures, caused by falls or other impact injuries to the back, will also create an abnormal curve in the spine. This condition increases the curve in the upper portion of the neck. The lower portion of the neck begins to straighten out and an increased curvature develops in the mid-back. In some instances, people develop a straight mid-back. These people have an almost regal bearing since they are relatively stiff in their appearance. When they turn their head, it doesn’t appear to turn very far.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine, which is visible in a front to back view of the spine. Scoliosis is often the result of one hip being higher than the other. Also, a sideways curvature develops in the middle portion of the spine, and one shoulder is generally higher than the other. By using the tests previously outlined, you can visually check yourself or another person for this condition.