The human head weighs roughly the equivalent of a bowling ball. In a normal spine the head is balanced properly over the shoulder. However, because of leverage as the head moves forward it’s effective weight dramatically increases (think about holding a bowling ball out at arms reach). A rough guide is that for every inch of forward head carriage there is an effective increase of 10 pounds!!!
What does this mean to the person with Forward Head Carriage?
Headache, muscle fatigue, tight sore upper back and loss of range of motion are common concerns. Research has shown that blood flow to a muscle is decreased with sustained contraction and is virtually cut off at 50-60% sustained maximum contraction. Poor blood supply will lead to a build up of metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid which leads to muscle soreness. The Mayo Clinic Health Letter Vol. 18; 3, March 2000 states that forward neck posture leads to “long term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves.” A study published in the journal Spine (1986;6:591-694) found that forward head carriage will lead to degenerative arthritis.Research has also shown that forward head carriage will change the bone canal that contains the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. As a result, the nerve tissue is deformed. The spinal cord is the vital communication between the brain and the body and pressure on the spinal cord can have real health concerns. This is supported by the correlation between forward head carriage and lung function. Study has shown that as chiropractic improves forward head carriage the patient’s breathing capactity improved as well. As if that wasn’t enough, loosing your normal neck curve means that should you be involved in an auto accident, you are more likely to be injured.
Great! Painful muscles, pinched nerves, disc herniations and arthritis. What can be done? The good news is that chiropractic can help. Two recent research studies have found that chiropractic care is successful in improving the head carriage. If you are interested reading the studies you can find them here and here. By restoring normal biomechanics tension is relieved and the head is more balanced.
These other things can be done to improve head posture:
- Keep the weight of your child’s backpack under 15% of his/her body weight.
- If you have a desk job get up and stretch every 20 minutes.
- Set limits on how much you or your child watches TV or plays video games.
- Sleep with an orthopaedic pillow to properly support the curve in your cervical spine.