Neck pain from scoliosis can occur from atypical side-to-side spinal curvature anywhere in the vertebral column, but is most often seen in rare cases of cervical scoliotic change. Significant degrees of scoliosis can unbalance the backbone and might create structural issues in the spinal structures or chronic tension and pain in the muscular tissues that support the vertebral column. However, most cases of scoliosis are not painful and should not produce any pain or neurological effects.
Diagnosis of scoliosis-related neck pain can be a complicated affair, since some patients suffer pain that may not be related to the curvature irregularity. Since the modern medical system is structurally-obsessed, most of these patients are misdiagnosed as suffering from the scoliosis, while the actual origin of pain remains unrecognized and therefore, untreated.
This dialog details the incidence and circumstances of neck pain from scoliosis conditions anywhere in the spine. We will also explore alternative explanations for pain that might exist concurrently with scoliosis, but is not caused by the cervical spinal curvature abnormality.
Spinal Neck Pain from Scoliosis
Scoliosis involves one or more abnormal side-to-side curvatures in the spinal column. Most curvatures exist in the thoracic and lumbar regions, but some can extend up into the neck or reside exclusively in the neck and upper back region. Some curvatures are singularly curved and C shaped, while others are multiply curved in the shape of an S. Either profile can create spinally-motivated pain and neurological dysfunction through similar mechanisms.
When the spine curves side-to-side, the central spinal canal and/or foraminal canals on the interior of the curve might become narrowed at the apex of the curvature. This is logical and clearly visible on any type of advanced diagnostic imaging study. Sometimes, scoliosis also involves a twisting of vertebrae in the affected areas, which can compound these narrowing conditions and increase the chances of suffering symptomatic versions of central spinal stenosis and/or neuroforaminal stenosis.
Furthermore, scoliosis can cause abnormalities and dysfunction in the way the spinal joints connect or work together. These irregularities might provide the basis for mechanical pain to occur in the neck.
All of these circumstances can exist without symptomatic expression, since none of these conditions are inherently painful. However, each has the potential to become a real problem when the condition becomes pathological and negatively influences nerve tissues in the greater spinal anatomy.
Muscular Neck Pain from Scoliosis
Scoliosis can also affect the muscular tissues that support and mobilize the spine. Scoliosis might place unequal pressure on paired muscles, causing imbalances or chronic tension in affected tissues. Scoliosis might make particular muscles work much harder than usual or nonstop, just to adequately support the spine and the upright posture of the individual. All of these conditions can be immediately painful or may become painful over time.
Some of the most common symptomatic expressions of muscular issues that might be linked to scoliosis include chronic soreness, tired muscles and the possibility for regular spasming or cramping in specific tissues. These spasms might be uncomfortable or utterly agonizing, depending on many factors.
In cases where the scoliosis has also affected the spinal lordosis in the neck and/or twisted the vertebral bones from their usual neutral position, muscles might suffer even worse stresses trying to maintain the integrity of the spine, especially thorough a full range of motion. Patients might become more sensitive to shock in these cases, since the spinal curves are not working correctly to mitigate the impact felt during certain movements.
Remember that the muscles of the neck and back are interwoven and function as a group in order to accomplish most of their primary movement and stabilization tasks. Therefore, even when the scoliosis is not present in the neck itself, the consequences of the curvature can extend upwards and downwards into other regions of the vertebral column and the supportive musculature.
Unrelated Neck Pain from Scoliosis
Although the above scenarios are all possible to experience, especially with very severe scoliotic curvatures, the fact remains that most minor to moderate scoliosis is not symptomatic. This fact is backed by decades of focused medical research and clinical data. However, neck pain is still a rampant problem in the general population and scoliosis sufferers are certainly not immune to experiencing it, even when the symptoms are not related to their structural curvature issue. In fact, scoliosis sufferers are probably more likely to suffer pain that is structurally unrelated to their curvatures, but instead linked to mindbody factors brought on by the diagnostic nocebo effect of the condition rather than its anatomical implications. Let’s examine some reasons for neck pain to exist in scoliosis patients that might be unrelated to the abnormal curvature itself:
Structural spinal and muscular conditions can exist completely independently from the scoliosis, especially if the curvature resides low in the spinal anatomy. While most structural abnormalities are not problematic, some can be, so we recommend reading our complete coverage in the neck pain causes section of this website.
Pain might be nonstructural, but anatomically-motivated, such as in the case of systemic processes, disease, circulatory concerns or other causative mechanisms.
Pain in the neck might be psychogenic and enacted as a protective defense mechanism against the conscious recognition of repressed or suppressed emotional issues. These processes love to find structural scapegoats to increase their legitimacy, so in these cases, the scoliosis might actually serve this purpose perfectly, acting as a trigger for symptoms and a convenient scapegoat, but certainly not being the actual origin of pain. The vast majority of these syndromes are enacted by regional oxygen deprivation, although other mechanisms are possible and are still being actively studied by experts in mindbody medicine. For the full story on all forms of scoliosis in the human spine, we recommend The Scoliosis Authority as an expert resource at scoliosis-pain.com.