The spine typically has four distinct curves: two primary and two secondary. Our primary curves are our kyphotic curves, those that coil away from our organs and were developed in utero. The secondary curves are our lordotic curves, they are our necks and lower backs (cervical and lumbar regions). The cervical lordotic curve develops as we learn to lift our own heads and raise our eyes to view the world. The lumbar curve takes shape as we discover how to stand on our own two feet. These two areas correlate with our path to independence and our transition to becoming upright, independent beings. Frequently, they are also the first regions to suffer in times of transition or change.

It’s not uncommon for patients to walk in with necks refusing to rotate or lower backs in a vicious state of spasm that seem to have no clear cause of injury. Maybe they were innocently plucking a toothbrush from its housing, or walking their overzealous dog – just like any other day. The wear and tear on these areas from daily physical stressors is undeniable; living as an upright being isn’t easy and gravity is relentless. But it’s the moment that tiny disc herniation decides to make itself known, or the days leading up to your neck insisting you no longer move your head, that you find yourself asking, “Why? How? When?”. Questioning will often reveal these protests stem from a lurking monster threatening information overload to an already taxed system: CHANGE.

Transitions of all kinds take courage. We have to stand on our feet, take in our new surroundings, and find a way to do it with confidence. Even when we’re lucky enough to have support, change comes down to a one (wo)man show and it’s always an inside job, even when you hire somebody to pack your belongings and drive the truck.

The curves of the spine are our shock absorbers, but like any structure, or like any individual, they do have maximum loads that they can bear. Your neck and your lower back are on the front lines of impact, and they may “mysteriously” give way when your processing centers are burning up.

Our primary curves are, of course, a different story. They are our origin stories, so like our formative years, they are the groundwork for our secondary curves. Too many years of neck or lower back pain will make its way to the thoracic spine and the sacrum. Lung, bronchial and heart conditions threaten our vitality and will often attack these regions as well. But these two spaces hold some pretty big chakras: root and heart. They’re not lightweights in the long term emotional health department, and carry our deepest feelings and experiences. Memories live there, the kind you can’t think about without feeling them all over again. If the neck and the lumbar are our, “Look Out!” regions, our sacrum and our thoracics are our “Oh, I remember” areas.

Caring for our spines is of the utmost importance. Think of your spine as the foundation of your home, you don’t want your house built over a sinkhole, right? Summer can be an excellent time to explore the spine. Natural heat beckons the surrender of our winter tight muscles, and warmth generally provides a gateway to our bones. You want to sprawl out when it’s hot, lengthen your limbs, and invite a breeze over your body. So take time this summer to stretch gently, to breathe deeply, and surrender to the nature of the body. Until technology goes cyborg, our spines need to last a lifetime. Love yours in times of ease so you better understand how to communicate with it in times of chaos.

By Kari Napoli, L.Ac.

Photo Credit:  “Well There’s Your Problem” by Norm Lanier –

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