Wednesday, February 6, 2013

DAMAGING EFFECTS OF FORWARD HEAD POSTURE


DAMAGING EFFECTS OF
FORWARD HEAD POSTURE

The effect of posture on health is becoming more evident. “Spinal pain,
headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are among the
functions most easily influenced by posture. The corollary of those
observations is that many symptom5s, including pain, may be moderated or
eliminated by improved posture”.(1)
One of the most common postural problems is the forward head posture (FHP).
Since we live in a forward facing world, the repetitive use of computers, TV,
video games, trauma and even backpacks have forced the body to adapt to a
forward head posture. Repetitive movements in a certain direction will
strengthen nerve and muscle pathways to move that way more readily.(2),(3)
An example would be the adaptation of the body to do gymnastics easily after
repetitive practice. It is the repetition of forward head movements combined
with poor ergonomic postures and/or trauma that causes the body to adapt to
forward head posture.
F.H.P
Ideally, the head should sit directly on the neck and shoulders, like a golf ball sits on a tee. The
weight of the head is more like a bowling ball than a golf
ball, so holding it forward, out of alignment, puts a strain
on your neck and upper back muscles. The result can be
muscle fatigue and all to often an aching neck.(4) Because
the neck and shoulders have to carry this weight all day is
an isometric contraction, this causes neck muscles to loose
blood , get damaged, fatigue, strain, cause pain, burning
and fibromyalgia. When spinal tissues are subject to a
significant load for a sustained period of time, they deform
and undergo remodeling changes that could become
permanent. This is why it takes time to correct FHP. In
addition, FHP has been shown to flatten the normal neck
curve, resulting in disc compression, damage and early
arthritis.(5) This abnormal position is also responsible for
many tension headaches, often termed carcinogenic
headaches.
FHP also causes tension in the TMJ (temperomandibular joint) or jaw joint, leading to pain,
headaches and bite problems. Some evidence exists that postural positions can affect the nerve
tissue by altering blood flow to the spinal cord.(6) People with uncorrected FHP can potentially
suffer chronic or unpleasant conditions such as, pinched nerves and blood vessels, like thoracic
outlet syndrome, muscle and tissue pain, syndromes like fibromyalgia, chronic strains and early
degeneration and arthritis.(7-14)
HOW TO DETECT FHP
FHP is relatively easy to detect. Have the person you are checking look up at the ceiling,
down at the floor and then straight ahead. Find the center of the shoulder and draw an imaginary
F.H.P
“F.H.P. leads to long term muscle strain,
disc herniations, arthritis, and pinched
nerves” Mayo Clinic Health Letter
volume 18 #3, March 2000
line up. It should land through the middle of the ear’s hole
(external auditory meatus). Any forward head posture should be
immediately checked by a chiropractor. Medical doctors do no
fix these types of problems. “Despite considerable evidence that
posture affects physiology and function, the significant influence
of posture on health is not addressed by most physicians”.(1)
Remember, long standing postural problems like FHP will cause
spine and nerve damage and symptoms are rarely present early
on.
COMMON CAUSES
Backpacks-
Children are now using backpacks to carry school books weighing
up to an alarming 30-40 lbs! This forces the head forward to counter
balance the weight resulting in abnormal stress to the discs, joints
and nerves of the neck, shoulders and lower back.
Computer Ergonomics-
Positioning computer screens too low, coupled with the repetitive
motion of moving the head forward to read the screen is a primary
factor in FHP.
Video games/TVMost
kids use poor posture when playing video games and watching
TV. Repetitively sitting in one position for long periods of time
causes the body to adapt to this bad posture.
Trauma-
Falls and trauma can cause whiplash resulting in muscle imbalance.
This pulls the spine out of alignment forcing the head forward.
According to Renee Calliet, M.D., if the head weighs 10lbs and the
center of the ear sits directly over the center of the shoulder, the load
on the spine and its tissue is only 10lbs. However, if the head is translated forward, it’s weight
will increase by 10lbs for every inch forward it is. In effect, if the center of the ear is three
inches forward from the center of the center of the shoulders, the weight of the head on the spine
and its discs, joints and nerves is 30lbs.!(10)
Normal
SOLUTIONS
1. The first step in correction is to be examined and x-rayed by a chiropractor to identify the
exact measurements of the FHP. Once that is established, a specific corrective care program for
FHP is given, including adjustments and specific exercises. The chiropractor will point out poor
ergonomics and situations that pre-dispose you to FHP and give you practical solutions.
2. For office use and video game play, place your computer
monitor height so the top third of the screen is even with your
eyes and the screen is 18” - 24” from your face. Support the
lower back. If children sit on the floor looking upward, have
them use a floor pillow armchair and sit up straight.
3. Every 20-30 minutes, sit up straight and pull the neck and head
back over the shoulders. Hold for a count of 3 and do 15-20 reps.
Alternatively, stand against a wall with a small pillow at your midback,
move your head back to touch the wall, hold for a count of 3
and do 20-25 reps.
4. Always use a back support pillow when sitting or driving. By supporting the low back, the
head and neck will move back over the shoulders.
5. At home, lay face down on the floor and extend your head and
shoulders up, while pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for
a count of 3 and do 15-20 reps.
6. Backpacks - maximum backpack weight should be 15% of the
child’s weight. Never wear backpacks over one shoulder. Always
use a waist belt, and if available, a chest belt to neutralize the load.
Without these belts, the head will move forward to compensate for the load. A new type of
backpack with an air bladder has been shown to significantly reduce
weight without a strap.
Monitoring good posture is essential for optimum health.
With a little effort and a chiropractor on your health team, you can be
assured a future doing things you love to do rather than suffering
from damage and degeneration that poor posture can bring.

(1) John Lennon, BM, MM, C. Norman Shealy MD, Roger K. Cady MD, William Matta PhD,
Richard Cox PhD and William F. Simpson PhD
Postural and Respiratory Modulation of Autonomic Function, Pain & Health.
AJPM Vol 4. No 1 January 1994
(2) Restak R.M. 1979 The Brain: The Last Frontier NY Warner Books
(3) The Laws of Fasciculation Porland’s Medical Dictionary. Dorkonos
(4) Mayo Clinic Health Letter. March 2000, Vol 18 #3
(5) Gore DR, Sepic SB, Gardner GM. Roentgenographic findings of the cervical spine in asymptomatic
People. Spine 1986;6:591-694
(6) Adams CBT, Logue V. Studies in cervical spondylotic myelopathy part I: movements of the cervical
Roots, dura, and cord and their relation to the course of the extrathecal roots. Brain 1971;94:557-568
(7) -(14) Donatelli R, Wooden M. Orthopedic Physical Therapy New York: Churchill Livingstone Inc. ,
1989.
(8) Cailliet R. Low Back Pain Syndrome. Philadelphia: FA Davis Co.,1981
(9) Cailliet R. Neck and Arm Pain. Philadelphia: FA Davis Co., 1981
(10) Cailliet R. Soft Tissue Pain and Disability. Philadelphia: FA Davis Co.,1977
(11) Reilly B. Practical Strategies in Outpatient Medicine. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co.,1984
(12) Lee D. Principals and practices of muscle energy and functional techniques. In: Grieve GP(ed.)
Modern Manual Therapy of the Vertebral Column. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1986.
(13) Bourdillon JF, Day EA, Bookhout MR. Spinal Manipulation. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1991
(14) Lewit K. Manipulative Therapy in Rehabilitation of the Locomotor System. Oxford: Butterworth
Heinemann, 1991.

So Please make your appointment to Evaluated your Forward Head Posture and find a solution to fixing it!
Dr. Jon Wise, DC, CCWP

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