Forward Head Posture
Forward Head Posture is an epidemic that has become more prevalent in modern times. It is one of the most common abnormal postures in our society. Ninety percent of the population has some degree of forward head posture. Using the simplest definition, Forward Head Posture is described as carrying the head forward of the center of the shoulder. As your head moves forward, your center of gravity shifts. To compensate for this shift in the center of gravity, your upper body drifts backward and your shoulder slump forwards. To compensate for the upper body shift, your hips tilt forward. (Pelvic Tilt) And this is how you end up getting bent out of shape.
FHP (Forward Head Position) is a cause of neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, TMJ dysfunction (temporal mandibular Joint Dysfunction), headaches, thoracic spine hump (Dowager Hump) and cervical spine pathology. A weakening of the extensor muscles and an imbalance of the flexor – extensor muscle ratio of the cervical spine due to many external factors causes anterior head gravitation, or forward head position. This leads to a chronic tightening stretching, and spasm of the muscles used to hold your head erect and in good posture. This leads to a hyperlordosis of the cervical spine, which leads to aberrant and decreased cervical spine facet joint movement. These bio-mechanical instabilities lead to more serious pathology eventually, such as disc dessication, (thinning discs) cervical spine spondylosis, (arthritis) disc pathology, (disc herniations or disc bulge) and facet and central cord stenosis (Narrowing of the space were the spinal cord and spinal nerves are located), and thoracic spine compression fractures. This has become more prevalent in our modern population due to the performance of our daily activities. (texting, driving, video game playing, computer typing, reading, writing, sleeping positions, eating, sports activities, exercise positions, and all looking down positions, etc…)
According to the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, older men and women with hyperkyphotic posture (rounded hump) have higher mortality rates. That means they are more likely to die early. A recent study found this hyperkyphotic posture was associated with a 1.44 greater rate of mortality.
The journal Spine states all measures of health showed poorer scores as C7 plumbing deviation (forward head and body) increased. In other words, those with forward head posture have a lower health status.
Rene Cailliet, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Director at U.S.C. states: “It’s an axiom … that the body follows the head … You can realign your entire body by moving your head … your head held in a forward position can pull your entire body out of line.” He goes on to explain that the vital lung capacity is reduced as much as 30%. The gastrointestinal system is affected, particularly the large intestine. When a hunched position is assumed, the body becomes rigid, and range of motion is affected. Since endorphin production is reduced, an increase in pain and discomfort results.
For every inch your head moves “forwards”, the head “gains” 10 pounds in weight, as far as the muscles in your upper back and neck are concerned, as they have to work harder to keep the head (chin) from dropping forwards onto your chest. This forces the muscles that raise the chin to remain in constant contraction, putting pressure on the 3 sub-occipital nerves. This can cause headaches at the base of the skull, and even mimic sinus headaches!
Persistent Forward Head Posture puts compressive loads upon the upper thoracic vertebra, and is also associated with the development of Upper Thoracic Hump, which can evolve into Dowager Hump when the vertebra develop compression fractures of the spinal vertebrae (anterior wedging). Also, the increased stress and pressure associated can creates disc dessication, a degenerative condition of intervertebral discs. Also known as disc thinning. Further, stress at vertebral margins above and below the disc produces spondylosis, a degeneration of the spinal column, especially and particular a fixation, fusion and immobilization of the vertebral bones. Also known as Arthritis. Many of the above may also cause Cervical Facet Joint Stenosis, a narrowing of the canal were the spinal never exits the spinal column. Disc herniations can occur from the compressive loads. Also known as slipped disk. This is an intervertebral disk in which the pulpy center has pushed through the fibrocartilage outer layers. It seems apparent that the postural changes from FHP may lead to bio-mechanical compressive loads that can even created spinal pathology. As you have read already, this is not limited to the neck only, but may even affect other regions of the spine.
Chiropractors maintain that it’s not uncommon to observe 2 inches of anterior head placement in new patients. Would you be surprised that your neck and shoulders hurt if you had a 20 pound watermelon hanging around your neck? That’s precisely what forward head posture is doing to you! It’s no wonder your body starts experiencing all sorts of aches and pains.
At ICAN Chiropractic we combine (CMT) Chiropractic Manipulative Treatment with passive therapy, and therapeutic exercises designed to alleviate the symptoms from FHP and correct joint dysfunction, muscle imbalance and poor posture. By coordinating, stabilizing and strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and tendons particularly the extensor muscles of the Cervical Spine, and by restoring normal range of motion to the joints of the Cervical Spine, we can delay, reduce and reverse the symptoms and conditions that FHP causes, and restore health.