Most of us appreciate that posture is important. Ideal posture means there is a ideal distribution of forces across different joints in the body and balanced muscle tone. Optimal posture will help you to not only feel great but also look great and exude confidence!
Today, I’m going to talk about a common postural phenomenon – forward head posture. I’m calling this an epidemic because Webster’s dictionary defines epidemic as “affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region.” When I meet people in my community, I see this everywhere!
What is Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture is when the head translates forward relative to the torso. It is also commonly associated with straight neck syndrome (when there is loss of the normal curvature of the neck). Ideally, when looking at a person from the side, the ear should line up with the shoulder. Forward head posture is common especially in students and office workers who sit at a desk for hours on end.
Causes of Forward Head Posture:
Common causes of forward head posture are…
Carrying too heavy of a backpack or carrying it too low – the head often moves forward to counterbalance the weight of your bag.
Slouching or leaning forward for prolonged periods at one’s workstation
General lack of postural awareness
Symptoms Associated with Forward Head Posture:
Common symptoms associated with forward head posture are…
Tense and sore muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders
Back pain (yes, even back pain!)
What causes these symptoms? Basically, there is suboptimal loading of the muscles and joints. The head is akin to a bowling ball – roughly 10 pounds – that sits atop your neck and shoulders. When it moves forward, the posterior neck muscles must work more to counterbalance your head. Hence, tense and sore muscles. When the muscles tense up, this also increased pressure between the joints. This, combined with shearing forces from suboptimal position, results in joint irritation. Joint irritation and excessive muscle tension in the neck often causes headaches due to pain referral. Irritated nerve endings in the neck refer pain to the head causing or contributing to tension headaches.
Now what about back pain, you ask? Yes, forward head posture can even cause back pain! All the joints and muscles in your body are functionally connected. Think back to high school physics class when you learned about levers. When an object moves further from the fulcrum, the turning force (or moment) becomes greater. You can apply this concept for lifting a large object by using a long lever. The only problem in your low back is that the lever is short and can’t be changed. So, when your head moves forward relative to your centre of gravity, your low back muscles must fire like crazy to counterbalance your head – otherwise you’ll fall over.
How to Fix Forward Head Posture:
Chiropractic care can help you correct forward head posture. Your chiropractor will quickly and easily identify postural defects and will let you know if you have any. Specific exercises can be prescribed for stretching relatively short and tense muscles and for strengthening relatively weaker, lengthened muscles. A chiropractor will help you become more aware of your posture. Individualized treatments including chiropractic adjustments will help to release pressure in tight, restricted and irritated joints balancing spinal mechanics and relieving pain.
So, go see your chiropractor! Or, if you’re from Aurora or York Region, come see me!
A healthy spine = A healthy body!
Dr. Elisabeth Miron