The arc of life. The cervical curve was named such by neurologists who first discovered that the curve in the neck not only supported the weight of the head in a way that was resistant to degenerative spinal changes (arthritis and disc disease basically). But that the curve in the neck protected the spinal cord from unnecessary stretch.
Just picture (actually use your hand to see). If you look at the flesh of your palm, while your hand is in a curved position with the palm curled, and the fingers curled in over top of it; you will notice the skin is very relaxed. If you completely straighten your hand you will see that the palm is stretched. Likewise, because your spinal cord is anchored at the top by dentate ligaments, and at the bottom, by nerves exiting the entire way, rooting the spinal cord in position, the cervical (neck) spinal cord, will be stretched as an elastic tissue.
So, I ask you this, do you think it is wise to have the “Arc of Life” under constant stretch because of “text neck?” The so named, degenerative change in the neck, that happens because of constant forward head posture, with the eyes trained down at the hands holding a phone in front of your navel. New moms learn every single day how bad they are damaging their necks from nursing babies in sitting positions, staring down at them. Yet teens will spend triple that amount of time looking down at their devices. This is an epidemic that will destroy health in our youth before anything else has a chance.
Dr James Carter goes through this discussion of his patients in this article in the Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3274835/Shocking-X-rays-teenagers-text-neck.html
After reading through the narrative, I figured I would give him some credit here, and then give a little of my own experience. I would look at the x-ray on the left above, as an example of the early changes that happen from forward head posture. The normal curve in the neck has been reduced, but is still in the proper formation with the curve open towards the back. This has begun to stretch the cervical spinal cord, cutting off the normal flow of information from the brain to the body, limiting function to a percentage of normal. This image is taken at a stage where we would have great success fixing this curve, especially if we had a compliant patient.
The image on the right however, is now at a stage that takes much more work, and in a teenager, is so far advanced for their age, that correction is a tremendous uphill battle. Again, a compliant adult is ten times more likely to fix this, whereas a non-compliant teen is ten times more likely to develop osteo-arthritis by the time they are 20. I have seen it many times. Being blessed with a high volume practice has given me volumes of experience in this realm. So how does somebody get to this stage? Time in the stage before, naturally leads to this next stage.
So what to do? I guess this is a call out to first say, EVERY BODY you know should have their spine checked, and x-rayed, simply to know. A screening to figure out what it looks like. Next, If you are on the list of bad spines, then you need to take steps to fix it, urgently. Because time is damage. Now here is the real kicker. For a younger individual, it is VERY LIKELY that there are no symptoms. In some cases there are huge symptoms, but the slower the change develops, the more capable the body is to present no symptoms, meaning the damage is simply accumulating without anybody knowing. Bad.
The x-ray below shows a spine with a reversed curve. Counting the lines drawn, the transition from 3 to 4 is horrible. The spinal cord resides directly behind the lines, and in this case, would be compressed. Stenosis. In a teen.
If you have anybody in your life you care about, who hasn’t at least looked at their spines ever, it is way overdue. Every single person on the planet who spends time looking at a personal device needs to be checked. I am grateful for this article, as it spurred me to write this one, and this is such a big deal, it needs to be talked about regularly.
So, refer someone, and please, please, please… correct your kids posture on an ongoing basis.
Be well and Be blessed! – Dr. E