What is Forward head posture
Reversed, straightening or the general loss of the normal neck curve is an important and often overlooked issue. When X-rays are taken and read by most orthopaedic doctors and radiologists, most neck alignments are deemed to be “normal” or “within normal limits”, unless a specific condition such as a spondylolisthesis is noted. However with growing bodies of research and postural problems worldwide, the consequences of having a forward head posture is becoming more and more apparent.
As the name suggests Forward Head Posture (FHP) is the gradual loss of normal posture as the head is pulled forward leading to increased pressure on the neck, shoulders and causing soft tissue damage over time.
For every inch that your head is held forward it gains ten pounds of weight, forcing the muscles of your back and neck to work that much harder to keep your head up. Rene Cailliet, the University of California's director of physical medicine and rehabilitation states that "forward head posture can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage..." pulling "the entire spine out of alignment" and "may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity."
You may be surprised to hear that the loss of the normal neck curve can affect your lung capacity and cause other parts of the spine to misalign; but when you realise that our body is more than the sum of its parts, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Chiropractor Adam Meade explains that the curve of your cervical vertebrae are referred to as "the arc of life" by neurosurgeons because these bones protect the brain stem and are the thoroughfare for spinal nerves that affect every organ and function in the body.
Why You Should Correct Forward Head Posture
Chiropractors understand that any forms of spinal misalignments may not only be the root cause of certain musculoskeletal and/or neurological problems, but can also hinder with normal body function. Misalignments such as these are called subluxations. Subluxations are oftentimes described as a silent killer because they are often overlooked by many, yet they impose great health risks. Forward head posture is no different.
NB: Subluxations are overlooked because they do not impose immediate health risks, unless they are the source of obvious symptoms such as generalised neck, low back pain or headaches. However the term “silent killer” is by no means a misnomer, as they are proven to cause functional changes and increased rates of degeneration of the spine over time. Most of us are only concerned over acute symptoms in which we try to mask them by popping a pill. This is the main reason why the conventional medicine is failing. Read how chiropractors are different here.
Forward head posture is mainly caused by trivial activities that we all do on a daily basis. Some of the examples are below:
- the use of smartphones
- watching TV
- playing video games
- students wearing backpacks
Health Risks Associated With Forward Head Posture
The structure of your spine defines the function of your body. Having any spinal misalignments out of its normal healthy alignment can thus result in a wide array of health conditions. For forward head postures specifically, it’s known to cause the following:
- Aches, fatigue, pain
- Numbness and tingling in the upper limbs
- Disc compression
- Premature arthritis, degeneration
- TMJ (Jaw joint) pain
- Altered blood flow
- Negative behavioural affects among children
Due to the high prevalence of smartphones, sedentary lifestyles and office jobs, new studies and health risks associated with forward head posture is actively being researched by many physicians and researchers. For example, Dr Christ Centeno, M.D cited a study in his article showing that the loss of the normal cervical curve (forward head posture) leads to reduced blood flow to the brain.
With so many health risks associated with forward head postures, you might wonder why they are easily overlooked. One reason is that we are accustomed to a reactive healthcare system. We experience a symptom, we get it diagnosed and we receive a quick fix. It’s no different to succumbing to a life-long administration of statins due to high cholesterol, rather than to correct the underlying problem through controlled diet, weight management and exercise.
Forward head postures (or any other misalignments of the spine for that matter) are still not considered as a health crisis due to their chronicity in its development and the perceived insignificance of its symptoms. Having general tightness of the upper body, muscular knots in the shoulder region(s) or having headaches are largely overlooked, ignored or even written off as “normal”, without knowing that these symptoms may be early signs of forward head posture. How many times have you popped an over-the-counter pain killer for headaches without giving any thought?
How to correct Forward Head Posture
Chiropractors understand that a preventative approach towards health is much more efficient than being reactive. In most cases, dysfunction or disharmony of bodily systems begin long before the symptoms start to surface. Prolonged forward head postures will result in premature degenerative disc disease and degenerative joint disease of the spine, and they are largely irreversible (except some cases of disc degeneration). That’s why correcting the underlying problems of forward head posture is important, rather than masking its symptoms.
Chiropractors are the most effective healthcare practitioners when it comes to posture and spine-alignment problems. They work by adjusting specific joints of the spine in order to restore their normal motion and proprioception. To reinforce the effects of chiropractic adjustments, rehabilitative, traction and/or home exercises may be prescribed.
Examples of Home exercises to fix forward head posture
Forward head postures can vary vastly among affected individuals - the degree of the misalignment, severity of degeneration, and the presence of pre-existing spinal conditions. Therefore if you wish to correct your forward head posture, consulting a chiropractor would be your best bet. However one thing that all forward head postures have in common is their direction of the misalignment - forward.
Because of this, there are numerous equipments and home exercises you can do to counteract general forward head posture syndromes.
Chin Tuck Exercises
Prone Head Lifts
Do you work in a desk-bound environment?
Do you suffer from neck and shoulder stiffness?
Do you get frequent headaches?
The chances are, you do; and to make things worse, studies have shown that on average, young adults spend at least 7 hours a day on their smartphones, laptops, tablets and/or computers.
Do you have a forward head posture?
Now’s the time to stop being reactive towards our health but become more mindful and practice preventative measures. Remember, "it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”.