By Doctor Rosemarie Jabbour (Chiropractor)
Did you know that the position of your head may determine your level of health? Recent research revealed the connection between head posture and overall health and if you have poor posture, the findings may alarm you. This blog post discusses the condition known as forward head posture, how it develops and the problems it can cause.
What is forward head posture?
It’s vital that your neck position allows your head to sit directly overhead your shoulders. Unfortunately for many, the effects of gravity, poor posture, poor office ergonomics, injury and trauma can cause misplacement of the neck vertebrae and skull. This leads to a condition know was forward head syndrome or posture. The loss of the neutral and natural neck curve can lead to disease causing tension that effects the nervous system.
Although chiropractors have known for a long time that the position of your head is critical in maintaining optimal health and function, forward head posture still affects the majority of people and has serious long-term health implications.
Common causes of forward head posture
Certain types of activities can place you at increased risk of developing this condition, including:
- Sitting for prolonged periods of time
- Working in an office, behind a desk or on a computer/laptop
- Poor ergonomics
- Injury or accidents
- Improper lifting technique over a long period of time
- Generally poor or hunched posture
An ideal head posture sees your ears directly inline with your shoulders and a natural and neutral backwards curve in the neck. Signs that you may have forward head posture include:
- Ears are not inline with shoulders
- Neck pain and headaches
- Tightness or tension in the back of the neck or upper back
- Awareness of your posture particularly if you know you look down at phone/tablet devices and laptops
- An obvious forward head carriage
Problems associated with forward head posture
There are many health problems associated with forward head posture. Some more common problems can include the following:
- Addition of up to 13kgs of abnormal load on the cervical spine due to forward head position (see image above)
- Reduction in vital capacity such as a 30% reduction in lung capacity
- Increase discomfort and pain
- Reduction in freedom of movement and joint range of motion
Multiple authors and numerous scientific reports identify forward head posture as a significant factor in what they term ‘musculoskeletal pain syndrome’. Persistent forward head posture puts compressive loads on the upper vertebrae and this can develop into ‘hump’ posture.
Case Study 1) A study (J Am Geriatr Soc 2004) found that forward head posture was associated with a greater rate of death. A sample size of 1,355 older persons was used between 1988 and 1991. The study looked to determine if there was an association between having forward head posture and an increased rate of mortality in older persons. The participants were followed for 4.2 years with mortality and corresponding cause of death confirmed for those participants who passed away during the study. The results indicated that older men and women with forward head posture have a statistically proven (95% confidence interval) higher rate of mortality.
Case Study 2) The following study (one of many) is important to consider if you work in an office environment, behind a desk or look down at a computer screen for extended periods of time.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at forward head posture in the work place. The results indicated that forward head posture was the most common spinal ‘defect’ found across a variety of professions. Over time, this leads to serious compression of the cervical nerve roots. The study concluded that professional education programs on correct posture, office ergonomics and corrective exercises may prevent this issues.
How can I correct forward head posture?
Chiropractic commonly helps a variety of postural problems, including forward head posture. Chiropractic works to free up restricted joints, increase range of motion, reduce pain, remove nerve interference and reduce muscle tightness and tension. Chiropractors may recommend a series of adjustments and specific neck stretching exercises (cervical tractioning) to help correct this condition.
If you would like to book a chiropractic consultation at New World Chiro please phone (02) 9687 4011 or email us today.
- J Am Geriatr Soc 2004 (Oct); 52 (10): 1662-1667. Source: http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/ABSTRACTS/Hyperkyphotic_Posture_Predicts_Mortality.shtml
- Choudhary B et al, 'Forward head posture is the cause of 'straight spine syndrome' in many professionals' Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.. 2000 Jul-Sep; 4(3): 122-4. Source: http://medind.nic.in/imvw/imvw4014.html
- Harrison et al. 'Cervical Traction' Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2003;26:139-51