The 42-Pound Head
By Erik Dalton, PhD
Edited by Paula Strauss, D.C.
“For every inch of Forward Head Posture (FHP), the weight of the head on the spine increases by an additional 10 pounds.” Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3.
It’s not uncommon to have clients walk into my office with a 12-pound head that’s migrated three inches forward of their shoulders. I already know that their neck muscles are in a losing battle to restrain the equivalent of 42 pounds against gravity. And their reports of ongoing headache, neck pain, troubled sleep, sinus problems and pinched nerves are merely symptoms of an underlying posture crisis. But FHP can cause so much more:
It may result in the loss of 30 percent of vital lung capacity. These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical curve which blocks the action of the muscles that lift the first rib during inhalation. Proper rib action is essential for complete filling of the lungs.
The entire gastrointestinal system (particularly the large intestine) may become agitated from FHP resulting in constipation.
The body follows the head. Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head”.1
The effects of poor posture go far beyond just looking awkward. In fact, the January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management reported on the relationship of poor posture and chronic pain conditions includes low back pain, neck related headaches (including migraines), and stress-related illnesses. “The extra pressure imposed on the neck from poor posture flattens the normal neck curve resulting in immense strain on muscles, ligaments, fascia and bones.”2 Research presented at the 31st International Conference of the IEEE EMBS Minneapolis (2009) stated; “Over time poor posture results in pain, muscle aches, tension and headache and can lead to long-term complications such as arthritis. FHP may promote accelerated aging of joints resulting in degenerative joint disease (also known as arthritis). Posture impacts all bodily functions from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are among the many conditions influenced by faulty posture.
Look for the typical symptoms that are associated with FHP:
Upper neck pain
Mouth breathing (sleep apnea)
Face & neck pain
Migraine and tension headaches
Uncoordinated gait and loss of body balance
Chiropractic adjustments restore not only position but also improve the neurological connections needed to solve these problems without drugs and without surgery. Simple posture exercises and a regular exercise routine help you to keep your new posture in place and relieve FHP.