One of the most common posture problems today is Forward Head Position/Posture. For every inch (2.54cm) that the head moves forward from its natural position, the upper muscles of you back and neck has to support TEN more pounds (4.5 kg) of weight. Forward head posture is one of the leading causes of neck and shoulder tension, pain and headaches. Forward head posture develops over the years as a result of an injury to the neck such as a sprain or strain of the cervical or upper thoracic spine. These injuries along with bad habits such as a poor sleeping or sitting positions, overuse of a mobile device such as texting or playing video games where the head is flexed at an acute angle for extended periods of time. Other causes such as heavy backpacks, sleeping wrong on a couch or reading at night with too many pillows all can lead to the epidemic of forward head posture. The repetition of multiple forward head movement combined with poor postures or situations and/or trauma causes the body to adapt a damaging forward head posture.
Forward head posture occurs when the head shifts forward from your body’s centre of gravity, to compensate the upper shoulders and thoracic spine move backwards causing the hips to tilt forward. This causes a domino effect with your posture, which leaves your spine out of alignment.
Forward head posture not only aesthetically unattractive, but it can damage your health. Long term stress on your cervical spine can lead to muscle strain, disc herniation and osteoarthritis of the spine, as well as affecting your overall wellbeing. Rene Cailliet, the former Director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Director at U.S.C., has done extensive research into the area of posture and he states that “your body follows the head…your head held in a forward position can pull your entire body out of line.”
Cailliet has research that shows forward head posture reducing a person’s lung capacity by 30%, the gastrointestinal system is affected by the upper cervical tension, especially the large intestine. Also when a forward position of the cervical spine is present, the body becomes stiff and rigid and the entire range of motion is affected. When range of motion is affected, endorphin production decreases so overall pain and discomfort increases affecting the health and mood of the patient.
If you are suffering from forward head posture, you should be examined by a chiropractor who can evaluate your spine to check for any misalignments which may be causing the improper posture. Other simple things that you can do to help improve are correcting the ergonomics at work, home, school or in the car.
Doing a quick ergonomic check to make sure that you are sitting straight, not hunching over a computer or in your car seat. First, if you are actually conscious of the problem, it is easier to identify problems that are contributing to it. One quick tip is to sit up very straight and set your car mirrors, then as the day goes on, if you check your rear-view mirror while driving and can’t see anything, adjust yourself – not the mirror!
This is why we are making an effort in the Emirates to educate the public about the damaging effects of forward head posture and what people can do about it. We see more children with forward head posture than ever before. This can be detrimental to their overall health and wellbeing, now and in the future.
If you have any questions about your own posture or the posture of your child, please do not hesitate to contact me or another chiropractor in your area.