The term military neck has no relation with problems associated during and after military service. The condition is nicknamed because it has resemblance with the straight neck of a soldier standing in attentive posture. Actually military neck is the bony deformity of cervical spine. In medical parlance it is referred as cervical kyphosis.
The normal shape of cervical spine is C shaped with a forward bending, whereas in this condition the cervical spine is either straight or bent backwards. Military neck occurs gradually and the most common reason is poor neck posture.A person suffering from military neck may be asymptomatic or may experience pain in neck as well as neck stiffness.
There are number of methods to secure the normal curvature again. However, the treatment results are not instantaneous and it demands lot of patience and effort on the part of patient as well as the attending doctor.
What Are The Causes Of Military Neck?
Let us have a glimpse of basic anatomy of cervical spine. It is made up of 7 cervical vertebras. The normal cervical spine in the neck has forward curvature which is called lordosis.The side view of cervical spine appears like an alphabet C. Nature has designed it in such manner so that the neck is able to bear the weight of head as well as allow free neck mobility. However, in military neck the cervical spine becomes straight or even bends backwards (cervical kyphosis). The normal curvature is lost.
Many factors predispose in altering the normal curvature of neck. Let us begin with the most common cause, and it is poor posture of neck and back. Sitting in front of computer for prolonged period of time without taking a break can ultimately compromise the shape and structure of vertebras and muscle of neck.
People reading or writing in improper position for long hours can suffer from military neck. Whiplash injury from car accident can result in military neck. Occupations which require repetitive neck movement can be one of the causes for military neck. Regularly sleeping on piles of thick pillow can alter the normal curvature of neck.
Symptoms Of A Military Neck
Pain and stiffness of neck are two main symptoms of military neck. If loss of curvature of neck is mild, the patient may be asymptomatic. However, when there is significant loss of neck curvature and the cervical bones appear straight on X-ray, patient complains of many symptoms.
- Pain in neck is the main symptom. There may be associated radiating pain in arms, hands and fingers. It is produced due to pinched nerves originating from the cervical spine.
- The second most important symptom is stiffness of neck. Patient is unable to move his neck freely. It is partly because of weakening of neck muscles because of military neck.
- Headaches are associated with military neck.
Natural Ways To Correct A Military Neck
Correction of military neck requires long time. There are no shortcuts to fix the problem. Also achieving complete relief depends on many factors such as degree of curvature, degeneration of cervical disk, osteoarthritis of cervical bones etc. It also depends on the regularity with which the patient follows recommendations given by the physiotherapist and orthopedic surgeon.
Pain killers and muscle relaxant medicines can temporarily alleviate pain and reduce stiffness in neck. However, these medicines cannot be used for long duration because of their side effects.
Though it may take time, military neck can be corrected with 3 possible methods; Neck exercise, neck traction and specific pillows to support neck.
- Neck exercise is intended to strengthen the neck muscles which have become weak. Once gaining strength, the muscles will support cervical spine and actively contribute in regaining back the normal neck curvature.
- Neck traction is helpful in reversing the deformity. In neck traction, the neck is extended to a certain limit. The treatment needs care of a physiotherapist. Few sittings will help to alleviate pain and stiffness. Nowadays, neck traction pillows are available and they are easy to use.
- Use of specialized pillow while sleeping is beneficial in correcting military neck.
- Also a gentle massage on the neck helps to alleviate pain and relaxe neck stiffness.