Question

Neck Pain

How can forward-head posture cause neck problems and headaches?

A Answers (2)

  • AStephen Wechsler, Chiropractic, answered

    Posture is the window to the spine and poor posture can indicate there is a problem with a person’s spine and nervous system.

    One of the first indicators of poor posture is a slouching or forward head posture. This posture closes down on lymphatic drainage in the neck and will cause more strain on the posterior neck muscles. It also increases the weight bearing on the discs and can lead to premature arthritis of the neck. There are many causes of this type of posture including car accidents, sports injuries, working with computers and loss of bone density. Posture problems can also result simply from poor sleep habits or sleeping on mattresses that don't offer enough support.

    Most people involved in automobile accidents in which the head in whipped back and forth will suffer loss of the normal spinal curvature in the neck. When this occurs, the weight of the head, approximately 12 pounds or so, is displaced and places pressure on the discs, muscles and nerves of the cervical spine. This leads to muscle strain in order to balance the weight of the head and uneven wearing of the discs and joints of the cervical spine.

    Chiropractors are experts at analyzing posture and spinal problems. They are trained in the art of detection. A doctor of chiropractic searches for the problems that exist underneath poor posture, analyzing spinal curvatures and alignment.

    Analyzing posture from the front, we look for changes in the stance, the alignment of the knees, the leveling of the hips or pelvis, the height differences across the shoulders and tilting of the head and neck. We look for forward tilting of the pelvis, forward head translation and increase in the spinal curvatures. All of these changes add up to changes in the spine. We also observe a person while walking to see if there are gait changes. Gait, or the walking cycle, is an important indicator of how improper foot alignment affects spinal posture.

    Distortions in spinal alignment are indications of vertebral subluxation - a condition treated only by chiropractors. The vertebral subluxation is a misalignment of the spinal vertebra effecting the spinal joints and discs causing changes in nerve function and irritating the spinal musculature. Chronic subluxations lead to spinal disc and joint arthritis. Subluxation affects the function of the nerve and any area of the body supplied by that nerve. Multiple subluxations can affect multiple organs, glands and system of the body leading to ill health.

  • ARick Olderman, Physical Therapy, answered
    The most common type of neck problem stems from holding your neck in extension, such as happens with a forward-head position, in which the head sits too far forward on the trunk. Most if not all our activities during the day involve maintaining or increasing our neck's extension. The head moves forward (increases neck extension) during a variety of activities such as driving, working on a computer, or raising and lowering an arm.

    Ideally, your head should sit over your shoulders, not in front of them. When the head moves forward, it places the cervical spine in extension -- especially at the base of the skull. The muscles at the back of the head that connect the base of the skull to the neck shorten to accommodate this position. Typically, in the clients I've worked with, headaches are commonly caused by these muscles being excessively shortened or strained. Correcting a forward-head position can restore the muscles to their proper lengths and decrease chronic headaches.
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