"For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds." - Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3
The majority of people that come in to see us for the first time have a 10-12 lb head that's migrated 2-3 inches forward on their shoulders. Even before our hands-on examination we know that the cervical extensor muscles are in a losing battle attempting to continuously restrain 42 pounds against the unrelenting force of gravity.
Rene Cailliet M.D., former director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California wrote:
• Head in forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment.
• Forward head posture (FHP) may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity. These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical lordosis (curve) which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid responsible for helping lift the first rib during inhalation.
• Proper rib lifting action by the hyoids and anterior scalenes is essential for complete aeration of the lungs.
• The entire gastrointestinal system (particularly the large intestine) may become agitated from FHP resulting in sluggish bowel movement and evacuation.
• Cailliet also states: "Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the mid back, shoulders and pelvis. All are important, but, head position takes precedence over all others. The body follows the head. Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head".
The effects of poor posture go far beyond just aesthetics.
The January 2004 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management reported on the relationship of poor posture and chronic pain conditions including low back pain, neck related headaches, and stress-related illnesses.
"The extra pressure imposed on the neck from poor posture flattens the normal cervical curve resulting in abnormal strain on muscles, ligaments, fascia and bones."
"Over time poor posture results in pain, muscle aches, tension and headache and can lead to long term complications such as osteoarthritis. Forward head carriage may promote accelerated aging of intervertebral joints resulting in degenerative joint disease."
Here is the takeaway from all of this research and jargon: Poor posture and loss of the normal curvatures of the spine can affect you in ways you may commonly feel (neck pain, back pain, headaches) but also in ways you may have no idea about (reduced lung capacity, hormonal production, blood pressure, pulse, moods).
A spine that is not moving properly and has lost its normal range of motion is going to have a negative impact on the health of your nervous system. WHY? -->
Because "90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine" Dr. Roger Sperry, (Nobel Prize Recipient for Brain Research)
AND 90% of the brains energy OUTPUT has to do with movement and posture in relation to gravity. Are you beginning to see how important posture really is?
The presence of Forward Head Posture means that the brain needs even MORE energy to deal with the abnormal gravity/posture relationship and this energy comes from processes like thinking, metabolism, balance/coordination, and immune function.
So what can you do if you have Forward Head Posture?
Since everyone's case is different, we can't give any blanket recommendations that will work for everyone. However there's one exercise that everyone should be able to do that we wanted to share with you. Click below to download the Neck Retraction Exercise video.