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Head-Forward Posture Creating an Epidemic of Pain

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Chiropractors are seeing an increasing number of patients with non-accident-related head, upper back and neck pain.

As adults and children are spending up to 11 hours or more a day slumped over computers, laptops, mobile phones and tablets – and doing less exercise – we are reversing the normal curves of our spine. We call this Head-Forward Posture (HFP).

This unhealthy posture has been further exacerbated by the Pandemic which has forced workers and students out of schools and workplaces into the home, usually without the ergonomic workstations that help to protect their posture. Add the stress created by the COVID-19, politics and the media, and we have the perfect storm. This load can result in muscle tension, headaches, aches, pain and myriad mental and emotional challenges.

Head-Forward Posture is a condition that develops over a sustained period and is caused by bending our necks forward, rolling our shoulders forward and lifting the head while on computers or even while working in such positions as dentists, hair stylists and manicurists must adopt as they lean over patients/clients. But it is the daily, sustained duration that does the damage. Holding this forward posture in a frozen position for hours affects muscles, fascia, ligaments, arteries, nerves, joints, vertebrae and the whole agonists/antagonist relationship of muscles supporting the spine and maintaining normal spinal curves and movement.

Spinal curves help to support and maintain vertebral integrity and strength. The curves enable the weight of the head to be evenly distributed throughout the spine. The head weighs around twelve pounds and sits directly over the spinal column. Imagine a bowling ball sitting on you neck. With HFP, the weight distribution of the head is directed to the lower cervical and upper thoracic spine. For every inch the head is translated forward, there is a ten-pound increase of force on this area. This force sets up degeneration of discs and vertebrae which leads to kyphosis (humping of the upper back). Muscles in the front of the neck are contracted, the mid and lower neck muscles are stretched, and the upper muscles attached to the skull are contracted. This position is exhausting and dysfunctional for the involuntary, postural muscles trying to maintain healthy spinal curvature.

Activities that help deter HFP are good ergonomics, taking 2 -5-minute breaks every 30 minutes to breathe and do muscle stretch and strengthening exercise, and staying hydrated. See a chiropractor for adjustments, myofascial/muscular release and an exercise plan for HFP, specific to your needs.

Head-Forward Posture Correction Exercises and Breathing

Breathing to release tight muscles, stressful thoughts and stored negative energy:

Sitting in a healthy posture, inhale slowly for 4 seconds while imaging peaceful, positive and healing thoughts coming in with the breath. Breathe in through the nose and into the belly. Expand your abdomen to allow the air to flow there. Hold for 4 seconds, then slowly exhale for 4 seconds, contracting the abdomen to push out the air while releasing any anxiety, fears and dreads. Repeat as needed. You decide what drives your workspace. Creativity or stress.

Isometric exercises to strengthen muscles and regain proper spinal alignment:

There are 6 ranges of motion in the cervical spine. These include forward flexion, backward extension, right and left side flexion, right and left rotation. The goal is to remove restrictions within the muscles that enable healthy ranges of motion. For each range of motion, use your hand to create resistance of the specific movement.

1. For forward flexion, place your hand on the forehead and lightly push your head into the resistance of your hand.

2. For lateral flexion, place your head in a neutral position with nose pointing forward and head tilting sideways, put your hand on the side of your head and push into it to create resistance.

3. For extension, place your hand on the back of the head, and push into the extended head motion.

4. For rotation, place your hand on the side of the head on side of rotation and again resist the heads rotation.

Hold each resistance for 6 seconds and repeat 6 times for each direction. Repeat this entire exercise 6 times a day. Even one set of these exercises will bring relief.

Dr. Jones may make additional exercise recommendations to fit your specific needs.

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