Have you ever been walking along and caught your full body’s side profile in a reflective surface? At first glance we are worried about our hair, our clothes, or worse – “look how fat and out of shape I am”.
Now look again closer. Is your chin out in front of your shoulders and chest? Worse yet, are your ears out over your chest? Are your shoulders rounding from the strain of your head being so far forward? Sometimes this is very obvious, yet other times it is hard to detect with the naked eye.
Do also you have constant headaches, neck pain, and/or the muscles in your shoulders that are always so tight that they burn?
Ahh, now that you have pain, do I now have your real attention?
Reach back and touch at the base of your neck – do you have a bump? If so, you may have found a source to your headaches and neck pain. This bump is an unattractive mass of fat and muscle that your body will build over time, and it will continue to grow, to help keep your head from pulling further and further forward. Unfortunately this bump will only get worse with time, unless you change the arc in your neck, called your cervical curve, and line your head back over the center of your body to reduce the strain on your head, neck shoulders and back. As the ugly bump grows so will the pain and irritation in that area.
Your Body’s Architecture
If you think about the mechanics of your neck, you’ll realize it’s not surprising how easily it can be misaligned and injured. It has amazing flexibility, is constantly on the move, has very little muscular support, but has to support the 14 – 16 pounds of your head. It is like balancing a bowling ball on a stick using only elastic bands in what should be a perfect 60 degree curve. Due to our tech savvy lifestyles a forward head posture is the now one of the most notable posture changes. This change is a huge factor in our overall health because it relates to our central nervous system, which is our body’s power supply. When you have forward head posture your spinal cord is pulled and stretched. This tension changes the shape of your spinal cord and narrows the area in which your spinal fluid travels around the quintessential spinal cord.
When healthy and relaxed, your spinal cord sends signals between your brain and body at approximately 275 mph. When you have lost your curve, the speed of these signals traveling between your brain and body all day long is compromised. Over time as the signal becomes weaker the body will begin to manifest symptoms and conditions to alert you that your body is in a state of dis-ease. Your body will continue to change and adapt with protective measures. If your forward posture is left over time it will result in the condition most often referred to as a Dowager’s Hump that begins with the first visual sign – that ugly bump.
Clear Prospective On Forward Head Posture
Causes and contributing factors to a forward head posture can range from past trauma, repetitive motions and strains, to emotional stress. Most often a forward head posture is a combination of factors that resulted from an occurrence and is left unrecognized and treated over time. For instance an injury may be combined with poor posture most often produced from today’s tech savvy lifestyles, spinal misalignments, and stress. The significance of the long-term impacts and effects on your health associated with Forward Head Syndrome has been increasingly mapped out in studies related to head position and other bodily functions.
Most Frequent Causes:
Injuries: Easily the most common injury to the neck is whiplash, the sudden, violent whipping motion of the head in an accident. It is most often associated with a car accidents, but it can happen when playing sports, or any other time the head suffers this particular whipping trauma. When this happens, the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back are damaged, but the full effects of this may not be felt for weeks or even months. This is why anyone who suspects they may have suffered whiplash should be extremely careful not to aggravate it, even if they feel no immediate ill-effects. An assessment should be sought from a chiropractor, in case treatment is needed to minimize the effects and guard against possible irreversible damage.
Poor Posture: Poor posture is one of the most common causes of neck pain which can cause headaches. Unlike sudden injuries, which we usually know have happened, bad posture occurs over time and is something we soon begin to feel as normal. Everyday activities such as texting or working on a computer for extended periods is certainly susceptible to developing a forward head posture and spinal misalignments.
Misalignments: These are extremely common in the neck and upper back area, thanks to the weight of our head resting on such an unstable part of our spine. The majority of spinal misalignments are centered around four areas:
- The top of the cervical spine where it meets the skull
- The middle of the cervical spine which supports the greatest weight of the head
- The transition between the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine
- The middle of the thoracic spine which supports the greatest weight of the upper body
Stress: Mental and emotional stress causes the muscles to tense, especially those in the back and neck. This “muscle guarding” is a primitive survival response to avoid injury in the face of danger, but it ends up causing injury when it happens for any length of time.
Understanding Effects of Forward Head Posture:
- Incorrect head positioning leads to improper spinal function.
- The head in forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine.
- Forward head posture results in loss of vital lung capacity. In fact, lung capacity is depleted by as much as 30 percent. Loss of lung capacity leads to heart and blood vascular problems.
- The entire gastrointestinal system is affected, particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common condition that comes with forward head posture and loss of spinal lordotic curves.
- Forward head posture causes an increase in discomfort and pain. Freedom of motion in the first four cervical vertebrae is a major source of stimuli that causes production of endorphins in production many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain.
- Forward head posture causes loss of healthy spine-body motion. The entire body becomes rigid as the range of motion lessens. Soon, one becomes hunched.
Ready to Help!
With the increasing use of texting and smart phones this epidemic is only getting worse. Kids also now routinely present with all sorts of health problems (like headaches, stomach problems, and chronic colds) related to incorrect forward head posture. This used to be an adult problem but now our children are developing symptoms and conditions earlier which are affecting the health of our future generations.
Our expert team is ready to help you and your families not only address the neck and headache pain but to restore and strengthen function for healthier and higher quality of lives.
Let’s build good health into our high tech lives rather than our poor quality of health lives around our next “pain”.
For Your Health,
Dr. Scott Van Dam