Forward Head Posture and
Loss of Cervical Lordosis
In a normal spine, the head should be suspended directly over the spine. This keeps the weight of the head over the body's center of gravity. The head is suspended not by an inflexible rod, but rather by a 43 degree arc formed by the vertebral bones in the neck. This arc acts as a shock absorber for our head with every step and jump we make. Sometimes, because of bad posture while reading or doing computer work (or texting!), or because of an accident, or for any number of reasons, a person's posture will change such that their head is shifted forward in a neutral position. This condition is called Forward Head Posture (FHP).
This change in the body's posture has two effects: one, it reduces the 43 degree arc of the cervical curve, and two, it places the head forward of the body's center of gravity. Forward head posture causes several problems.
First, for every one inch of forward head posture, the head effectively weights ten more pounds. Try this yourself: hold a bowling ball right next to your shoulders, in front; then, shift it forward. It got heavier, right? This shift in head position means that the muscles of your neck and your upper back will need to work harder to hold your head up (red star on diagram). This can cause neck and back pain, and muscle fatigue. Research has shown that blood flow through a muscle decreases as contraction increases, and is virtually cut off at 50-60% of continuous maximal contraction (click here to read abstract). Lack of blood flow results in buildup of lactic acid and other metabolites that cause muscle pain and soreness. Do you always find your upper back muscles fatigued and sore, with massage providing only temporary relief? Forward head posture could be to blame.
Second, when the head shifts forward of the body's center of gravity, the spinal column in the neck elongates and straightens. Harrison et al (click here) have clearly shown that loss of the cervical curve alters the mechanical properties of the spinal cord and nerve roots, which may change the firing patterns of the neurons that comprise these structures . Since the neck contains every neuron that connects your brain with the rest of your body, the spinal cord in the neck is especially important to the function of every organ, cell, and, tissue in your body. A recent paper by Morningstar and Jockers supports this contention, demonstrating that correction of forward head posture and restoration of cervical lordosis is correlated with increase in pulmonary function (click here). Furthermore, loss of the cervical curve has been correlated with a myriad of health problems; in fact, one study (click here) found that this condition is predictive of mortality in geriatric populations
Third, loss of the cervical lordosis causes unnatural stresses on the vertebral bones in the cervical spine. Wolff's Law of Bone Adaptation states that the body will lay down new bone in an area of stress or strain in order to strengthen it; research has shown that this process results in arthritic bone spur growth in the cervical spine (click here). Forward head posture and loss of the cervical lordosis clearly predispose the spine to arthritis.
Fourth, a study by Stemper et al (click here) has shown that spines lacking the proper 43 degree arc in the cervical spine "enhance the likelihood of whiplash injury and may have long-term clinical and biomechanical implications." Given the number of rear-end collisions every day, having your spine more prone to injury due to lack of cervical curve is a big risk to carrry.
Fortunately, chiropractic care can help you to correct forward head posture and loss of cervical curve if you suffer from these conditions. Forward head posture and loss of cervical lordosis are problems with multiple components, including both vertebral subluxation and soft tissue issues (shortened or tightened or inhibited muscles, trigger points, and potentially fasical adhesions). At Bartholomew Family Chiropractic we have created a specific program that will address each of these problems and help you to reduce or correct both forward head posture and loss of cervical curve.
What sorts of benefits might you see from correcting forward head posture and restoring your cervical curve? For one, less stress on your body from not fighting to hold your head upright will certainly be good for your health; but more importantly, reducing mechanical deformation of the tissues of your spinal cord and nerve roots will allow your nervous system function at its best. Furthermore, restoration of the cervical curve can reduce your risk of whiplash injury in the event of an accident. Lastly, correction of FHP and cervical curve problems can increase your body's oxygen supply.Would you like to see health benefits like these? Call or email us to get your spine assessed for forward head posture and for the integrity of your cervical curve today, so you can start your progress towards a healthier life tomorrow.