Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and thought “Is that what I really look like?” Have you noticed rounded shoulders, head tilted to the side or your head seems too far forward like your hunching over? Forward head position or tilting can be caused in a single shot through a significant trauma or from whiplash. Most cases however, are caused over time by how we work, play and the bad habits we have created over time.
Abnormal posture can be caused by an unlimited number of things. Sitting at a computer too long, reading a book or spending too much time on a smartphone. When your neck is constantly in a forward flexed position the muscles, tendons and ligaments undergo a series or micro insults or injuries from repetitive stress. The muscles, tendons and ligaments on the back of the neck start to stretch out and get weak while the muscles in the front of the neck can shorten and go into a contracted state. As the negative stimulus is repeated on the neck the condition continues to worsen.
One might ask “so what if I do have a forward neck? I get it from my mom. What's the harm?” Forward head carriage causes the bones in the neck to lose their natural curve. The curve in the neck is developed as a toddler when we learn to crawl. The toddler is crawling on all fours with their neck forced into the extended position thus developing the normal curve in the neck. Year after year of insult, injury and abuse the neck loses the normal curve. As the curve decreases the weight of our head moves forward more and more. Imagine having to carry a heavy object for a long period of time. Is it easier to hold it close to your body or away from your body? The farther the head is displaced from the center of gravity the more stress on the body.
This increased stress causes early degeneration on the spine. The disc acts as a shock absorber and begins to break down. When this happens we see arthritic changes, stenosis ( decreased amount of space for the nerves to pass through) suboptimal respiratory function and ultimately a natural fusion of the spine resulting in a loss or neck range of motion.
There are numerous stages of forward head carriage. The final stage unfortunately typically results with pain management and/or surgery. Chiropractic adjustments, proper stretching, ergonomic awareness and education, and spinal rehabilitation through corrective care can help stop and possibly reverse the stages of degeneration.