Forward Head Posture – what goes wrong?

I’ve talked about Anterior Head Carriage, or Forward Head Posture or Tech Neck before, here:

I’ve also talked about how common Forward Head Posture (FHP) is, here:

With today’s lifestyle, FHP occurs more oftSchool kids using phonesen than ever before.  It is now estimated that about 90% of the population suffers from it.  This fits with what I see in the clinic.  Nearly all my patients are hunched over their computers all day.  More worryingly, our children are doing the same whilst watching stuff on the ipad and playing video games.  This is becoming a health epidemic.

What I wanted to do in this post is talk about what Forward Head Posture actually does to you.

What happens in Forward Head Posture:

There is an urban myth about this, which is:

“According to Dr. Adalbert I. Kapandji, an orthopedic surgeon and the author of “Physiology of the Joints, Volume Three,” for every inch your head is craned forward, 10 lbs. of effective weight is added.”

Now, he never actually wrote this but the idea is right.  Dr. Rene Cailliet, an emeritus professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA suggests that Anterior Head Carriage (the correct term for Forward Head Posture) can add up to 30 pounds of leverage on your cervical spine.

Why is this?

Relative to the rest of your body, your head is a heavy structure.  Normally, when sitting or standing upright and looking forward this weight is balanced nearly exactly over the center of gravity line.  Keeping your head balanced over this line requires only slight neck muscle activation.  However, this is only true when your head is in the correct position.Forward head posture

In the words of Scotty:

            “Ye canna change the laws of physics, Jim”

As your head comes forward, physics starts to come into play.  This is the most significant event that occurs in FHP/AHC.  Your neck becomes a lever arm (a class 3 lever).  Which means it works like the arm of a crane with a load that also gets heavier the further forward of the centre of gravity your head moves.  The muscles of your shoulders and neck then start to act as the wires on the crane.

Forward Head Posture/Anterior Head Carriage causes these problems:

  1. The curve in your neck disappears. The compression absorbing ability to flex is lost as your neck becomes a column which results in low-neck joint compression.
  2. These low-neck joints are also the fulcrum for the crane arm. This causes even more compression and subsequent joint injury.  This compression can then lead to disc injury and nerve root irritation or compression.
  3. The wires of the crane are provided by the muscles of your shoulders and neck. The most important are the Trapezius muscles.  These glue in on the tip of your shoulders and then attach to the base of your skull.   Trap insertionYou also use your Levator scapulae to hold your head up.  This muscle is designed to shrug, which is a short sharp action.  Instead of this, it has to do a long, sustained contraction lasting, let’s say, on a bad day, 12 hours.  This will lead to trigger points in these muscles and associated headaches that you’ll mistake to be migraines.
  4. To help stabilize your shoulders so that they can successfully act as anchor points for the hard-working traps you activate your arm adductor muscles. Now, these are designed to pull your arm in towards your side but, instead, you use them to help hold your shoulders down and stable so that they can take to load from your traps.  This also leads to the formation of trigger points in these muscles.  These can cause referred pain down the outside of the arm, sometimes as far as your hand.
  5. Your powerful trapezius muscles attach to your spine from C1 all the way down your spine to T12. However, the bit of your back that acts as the main anchor point for these two muscles is the spine in between your shoulder blades.  Most of our patients have a problem in this area as a result of this tethering and dragging around of the vertebral body by the traps.
  6. Your long and strong parpaspinal muscles are used to act as scaffolding round the injured joints of your back leading to more pain.

So, you can see why we are so focused on addressing Anterior Head Carriage, Forward Head Posture or Tech Neck as it is the devil and only getting worse.  So, if this sounds like something you are suffering from get along to your nearest Chiropractor and let them start to sort it out.

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