Military Neck (Flat Neck):
How To Restore The Curve In Your Neck

Can You Restore The Curve In Your Neck If You Have Military Neck?

Military neck, or flat neck syndrome, is when you have a loss of curve in your neck. Medically this is also referred to as a loss of cervical lordosis.

Watch the video to learn what causes military neck, 2 different types of flat neck, plus how to restore the curve in your neck.

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What Is Military Neck or Flat Neck Syndrome?

Military neck is when you have a loss of curve in your neck or a loss of cervical lordosis.

Lordosis means the convex side of your spinal curve is forward and the concave side is to the back. Kyphosis is just the opposite.

Military Neck is when you have a loss of cervical lordosis curve in your neck

Normally, you should have alternating curves in your spine:

  • lordosis in your neck (cervical)
  • kyphosis in your upper back (thoracic)
  • lordosis in your lower back (lumbar)

What Causes Military Neck Syndrome?

Some people who focus too much standing tall with "good posture," actually develop a flat neck and back.

This is especially common in military personnel who are used to standing upright at attention.

Standing up tall is good to a point.

But there's a happy medium for almost everything.

Slouching too much is not good.

However, being too upright is not good either.

and that's really what this video is about: what happens when you're too upright and you have too straight of a spine.

Loss Of Curve In Neck On X-Ray

When you see X-rays of flat neck syndrome, you usually see it in two different varieties:

1. Flatback posture

One way is where everything is straight and it's just a flat back all the way up and down.

Military neck flat neck 1

Usually, that's associated with a flat neck, flat upper back, and a flat lower back.

So, instead of that normal S curve that you see where it alternates back and forth between lordosis and kyphosis, you just see a straight spine.

(Incidentally, that can cause problems in the lower back as well.)

2. Forward head

Now, the other type of flat neck syndrome or military posture that you might see is where there's a sharp curve at the base of the neck, it's straight through the middle of the neck, and then a sharp curve at the top of the neck.

Military neck flat neck 2

The middle part of the neck is completely straight. It's just really curved at the top and bottom, and straight neck in between.

That's a little bit different of a treatment process than treating the completely straight up and down neck posture.

Since forward head posture is so common in America, we'll look at treatment for that type of military neck first.

Treatment for Military Neck From Forward Head Posture

If you have a forward head, that's probably the most common cause of neck pain in general, not just military neck.

In many cases, neck pillows and other treatments for a loss of cervical lordosis focus on restoring the curve in the neck.

pillow to restore loss of curve in neck

However, as you can see in the image above, doing this just sometimes pushes the head further causing more lordosis in the upper neck.

(The lady in this picture should really be using the thinner side of this pillow).

A Better Treatment For Forward Head Posture

If you reduce the sharp curve at the top of the neck by tucking your chin town down and focus on lifting your head from the mid and lower neck,  that will restore the lordosis curve in the middle part of the neck (which is what you want).

Sit up tall (to a point)

If you happen to have a sharp curve at the base of  your neck, it does make sense to sit more upright with your head over top of your shoulders.

That way everything is stacked like a tower of blocks and you don't need to use your neck muscles as much to support the weight of your head.

If you have military neck from flat back posture, the treatment is almoust just the opposite as above.

Instead of sitting up tall as mentioned above, you want to slouch a little.

As mentioned earlier, you're supposed to have a kyphosis curve in your upper back.

So if you're starting from a position of being all the way straight, then you want to round your upper back just a little bit.

Then move your head back over your shoulders moving from the mid-to-lower neck.

This will help restore your cervical lordosis curve.

Military Neck Pillow

I mentioned neck pillows before.

Getting a neck pillow is one of the most common treatments that people look for when they're trying to restore the curve in their neck.

That can be good in some cases,  particularly in the case where you have a true military neck from flatback posture where everything's straight up and down.

In that case, a pillow to support the curve of your neck can be helpful.

However, you don't want to throw yourself into too much upper cervical lordosis especially if you have the kind of military neck where you already have too much curve at the top of your neck.

If you're trying to restore that curve in the middle of your neck but you have too much curve at the top of your neck, you're jut going to make more curve at the top where you already move too much.

That doesn't help restore the curve in the middle of the neck where you need it.

These kinds of neck pillows just make what's too curved more curved and what's not curved enough still not curved enough.

So instead of trying to restore your cervical curve with a neck pillow, just focus on getting a good support underneath your head and neck.

Make sure the gap between the bed and your neck is filled, but don't force yourself into lordosis.

That's why I recommend pillows with a wedge cut-out like the one above for people with a flat neck.

Just make sure you're well supported when lying on your back.

What About Neck Pillows For Sidesleepers?

If you're a side sleeper, the ideal sleeping position for neck pain is one in which your head is supported in midline.

If the pillow is too high, it pushes you one way.  If the pillow is too low, it pushes you the other way.

Either of these can result in a sore, stiff neck when you wake up.

In general, your pillow height should be about the same as the distance from the side of your neck to the tip of your shoulder.

pillow for sidesleepers with military neck

Having an adjustable pillow can help.

Pillows Don't Fix Military Neck

Although pillows are one of the first things people think about when they have neck pain, they usually don't fix the problem.

Don't get me wrong... they can help you get a good night's sleep, and that's valuable.

However, rarely does changing your pillow completely fix neck pain, just as changing your mattress doesn't often fix back pain.

So What's The Best Treatment For Military Neck?

Ultimately correcting your posture using some the tips above is the thing that's going to give you lasting relief from military neck symptoms.

Sometimes though you may need help to get started.

For example, you may need help to:

Figure out what type of military neck you have.

Loosen up stiff muscles and joints that are keeping you from fixing your posture.

Get some quick pain relief to get by while you work on a longer lasting solution.

If you need help for military neck, we'd be happy to help you get some quick pain relief while also helping you learn how to keep the pain from coming back in the future.

Just click the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialists.

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