How Posture Affects Health

As a Doctor of Chiropractic, posture is certainly something that I pay quite a bit of attention to when it comes to my patients. With the increasing technology in our world today, coupled with more and more people finding themselves in careers in which they sit the majority of the day working on a computer, there is an increase in the number of folks out there with just plain old bad posture. And while bad posture makes a person look somewhat less appealing, there are some serious health effects that a person can experience from chronically bad posture.

Forward Head Posture

In this article, I want to discuss one area of bad posture in particular. This is a condition referred to as Forward Head Posture, Anterior Head Carriage, or now “Text Neck.”  To simply explain what this condition entails, the name pretty much says it all.  A person suffering from this condition has an anterior displacement of their head, in relation to their shoulders.  Ideally, in general terms, our ear opening should be more-or-less directly over the center of our shoulders.  This is the way that our body is designed to displace and absorb the weight that the head places on our spines in a standing or seated position.  When a person’s head is protruding forward, in a manner that the ear opening is no longer centered over the shoulder (more specifically the glenohumeral joint region), we can then say this person is presenting with Forward Head Posture.

Now let’s fast forward to why Forward Head Posture is a bad thing.  Let’s say for instance that a person has a 9-pound head (which is rather small, but I’m no math whiz and it was an example I found).  If this person’s head is protruding forward even as little as an inch, in terms of the effects of weight bearing, axial loading, and gravity, the person’s head now places the downward force on the spine equivalent to 20 pounds! That is an incredible difference in terms of weight bearing, with a relatively small amount of forward head carriage.  The way that the bones in the spine are designed, the weight of the head and gravity is meant to be placed over top of the back portion of the vertebrae.  This is where the natural curves of the spine also come into play, as they are another means that the body uses to absorb gravity and to properly bear weight.

In the case of Forward Head Posture, we begin to lose the natural curvature in the neck.  What this means is that now, no longer does the back portion of the vertebrae receive the weight placed upon the spine as designed, but rather the anterior portion of the vertebrae receives the weight.  The anterior portion of the vertebrae, or “body” as it is called, is the part of the vertebra that has the inter-vertebral disc placed underneath the bone.  The spinal discs are designed to be shock absorbers in essence. With weight now being placed directly on top of the discs, degeneration begins to occur at a much faster rate, and we see an increase in the likelihood of a disc bulge or disc herniation.  To simply put it, this is not a good thing! This also causes the muscles located on the back of the neck to become stretched and contracted, and therefore causing pain and potential headaches. 

So how can we remedy this condition you might ask?

It is important to keep in mind that this condition did not occur overnight and therefore in order to remedy this condition requires time.  Specific chiropractic adjustments can greatly assist in restoring the natural curve in the neck, so seeking chiropractic care is a must and a great place to start. 

In addition to chiropractic adjustments, beginning to strengthen weak neck muscles, while stretching the tight and contracted neck muscles will eventually provide relief as well.  Improving the ergonomics of your workspace is also a must.  Getting a seat that allows you to sit more upright with your shoulders back, and lifting your computer screen to at least eye level are simple and effective ways to improve your workspace.  I also recommend using a cervical pillow while sleeping, as well as sleeping on your back at least part of the night.  The term “text neck” comes from the fact that so many people in our society spend hours each day looking down at their phones. This, in addition to having our computer screens below eye level, is the main culprit behind the rise of poor posture and more specifically, Forward Head Posture. 

So sit up straight, chest out, and shoulders back folks, and spend less time on your smartphones if possible.  These simple steps to improving posture can go a long way in improving overall health if implemented and utilized on a regular basis. As with any health condition, in order to truly know the potential cause of your condition, it is recommended that you consult your trusted healthcare professional for more information.

Dr. Christopher Weaver, Prana Chiropractic and Wellness Center

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