Neck Pain and Chiropractic
October 10, 2018
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The Dangers of Forward Head Posture

In the age of computers, smartphones, and tablets, we seem to be having an epidemic of forward head posture. Ideally, the cervical spine (neck), should have a slight curve to it, allowing the ear to be directly over the shoulder. Unfortunately, many activities lend themselves to a slouched posture with the head jutting out in front, such as working at a computer, driving, or sitting on the couch watching TV.

Why is this important? When the head is held in front of the body instead of directy over the shoulders, physics dictates that it will effectively seem “heavier” due to increased leverage. It is like trying to hold a bowling ball out in front of you all day- your arm would tire very quickly! When you have forward head posture, the muscles of the neck and shoulders have to work overtime just to keep your head up.

This often leads to trigger points (knots) in the muscles and restriction in the vertebral joints, which then cause neck pain and headaches. This slouched posture also puts the shoulders in a less-than-ideal position and can lead to shoulder tendinitis and thoracic outlet syndrome (numbness and tingling in the arms/hands). In addition, a forward head posture can make it difficult to take a deep breath.

6 Dangers of Forward Head Posture

  1. Leads to improper spinal function.
  2. Can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine.
  3. 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.
  4. Affects the entire gastrointestinal system, 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Causes loss of healthy spine-body motion. The entire body becomes rigid as the range of motion lessens.

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/TV

Most 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

Treatment Approaches

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.

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.
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 mid-back, move your head back to touch the wall, hold for a count of 3 and do 20-25 reps.
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.
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.
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.

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