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Posted on 02-06-2017
By Dr. Nicholas DiSabatino, a licensed doctor of chiropractic from Mission Valley San Diego specializing in relief of neck, back and shoulder pain.
Let’s look at how your head and lumbar spine connect to each other, and how improper head and neck posture (mostly referred to as "forward head posture") leads to chronic back pain when left uncorrected.
Repetitive bad posture causes forward head posture.
When you sit at a desk for lengthy periods of time with your head too far in front of your shoulders, the front of your neck gets tight, while the back part of your neck gets stretched. This is an all too common problem for us all these days, as our daily activities tend to be restricted to sitting down, for example, when we watch TV, drive our car, and of course, by spending our long occupational hours and days sitting at our desk/work-station. Over time, our poor posture turns into our body's neutral resting position, a "new normal" for us comes to life, but actually this new normal equates to abnormal forward head posture which over time most certainly causes repetitive, or cumulative type of bodily distortion, which then inevitably develops into a long-term chronic pain and injury syndrome. Fortunately like any bad habits, there is treatment, and you do not have to live with the chronic pain that resulted from long-term postural distortion. Chiropractic adjustments, physiotherapy, spinal active release therapy and muscle release therapy, when performed by a highly trained and experienced practitioner, will effect quick and dramatic recovery.
When your head shifts forward it alters your entire spine and body from below your skull to the tailbone, and even reverberating to the feet.
Forward head posture is likely the number one form major of postural distortion, The effect is to damage the spinal column by altering the effects of gravity on the entire body. The average head weighs between 8 to 10 lbs. and is designed to rest, head centered through the center of our body. Imagine how you would hold a bowling ball in your hand. You would center the ball so that its weight is centered through the shaft of your arm. In this way, you hold the bowling ball in the palm of your hand extended openly to distribute the force of gravity. Now imagine your holding the heavy ball, but you mildly flex your wrist, so that the weight of the bowling ball is shifted forward. You can imagine how with just a few millimeters of forward shift your muscles would rapidly become strained. In the same way, When your head moves forward in relation to your shoulders, it results in a type of postural distortion called “anterior weight bearing." Everything below the head will distort and shift awkwardly your anatomy, in our body's attempt to center the above force of gravity. Your chest will also move forward trying to center with your head. Now there is a big physiological deficit, as unbalanced body parts from above push down on everything below; and at the waist, the low back is working overtime -- carrying a lot of additional pressure from everything that has shifted out of place from above.
Posterior neck and low-back muscles spasm.
In the situation we have detailed above, the head and chest have unnaturally shifted forward. Of course, if you are suffering this distortion you are still continuing to function in your everyday life. How are you able to continue to function? The answer is that the lower spinal muscles become very tight as the last major defense for this type of postural distortion. The muscles of the lower back attach to the spinal column and to the top of the hips and then join to the bottom of the rib cage. By pulling these structures together, a person suffering from anterior head carriage can continue to stay upright.
Irritates existing body tissues, slow recovery time.
With some people who have no back injuries, altered posture may equate to pain. The huge drawback is that for an individual who does suffer a lower back injury after this process has started, it tends to irritate the lower back and impede the healing process, increasing the susceptibility to injury. This what is known as cumulative trauma injury. If we are able to recognize forward head posture is a leading cause of recurrent back pain, we will focus on reducing it, allowing the entire back to release. Treatments focused solely on the low back provide temporary relief but tend to ignore the biomechanics involved with the underlying problem. This is one of the main reasons that chiropractors treat the entire spine and not just one specific area.
Tension on the spinal cord
In addition to adding stresses and strains on the lower back, anterior head posture places tension on the spinal cord, which travels from the base of the skull all the way to the lower back. When the head is carried too far forward, the spinal cord must lengthen, and the entire anatomy of the spinal cord is stretched tight. This causes irritation in the peripheral nerve roots of the lower back, sometimes pushing against bones or bulging discs. The result is shooting pain in the legs or buttocks. This is known clinically as "radiculopathy."
Getting checked is easy
Chiropractors are knowledgeable about posture, and many specialize in correcting posture with adjustments, special exercises and a special form of stretching called traction. Give us a call and get your spine checked if any of this sounds a bit too familiar.
Thanks for visiting our blog! If you're new here and haven't yet become a patient at our office, you may want to check out our special offer for new patients. Hope to see you soon! Dr. Nick
This is some great information!