Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
A Chiropractor Wants to Increase My Neck Curvature.
What Should I Do?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

My chiropractor took x-rays of my spine this week and told me that my neck is not curved correctly. He said that if I do not immediately start an intense program to correct the problem, I can end up with painful arthritis issues later in life plus other major health and mobility issues. Please if he is exaggerating the issue in order to scare me into paying for more frequent treatments. Does a straight neck fall within the range of normal, or is he correct in saying that I have a serious issue? I have no neck symptoms. I do have some upper back discomfort. which is why I went to the chiropractor in the first place. But I thought it was related more to stress.

Answer

The suggestion that neck manipulation is needed to increase a neck curve in order to prevent a variety of health problems is a scare tactic used by practitioners to sell a long course of unnecessary, expensive, and possibly risky treatment. I have also encountered patients who were told that their perfectly normal neck curve needs needs straightening.

A symptom-free straight cervical spine is a harmless structural deviation from normal that does not warrant treatment. Muscle spasm can cause the neck to become straighter than usual, but this is temporary. The normal curve will return when the pain and spasm subside. When a straight cervical spine is structural in nature, a "normal" cervical curve cannot be attained and any attempt to change the curve by manipulating the neck may lead to the development neck pain. There is also a risk of stroke when forceful rotation of the atlantoaxial joints in the upper cervical spine stretches vertebral arteries.

Bottom line: If your neck is not bothering you, leave it alone!

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This article was posted on November 12, 2016.