Did your Mom nag you about your posture when you were a kid?
If so, you are one of the lucky ones. According to recent research Mom was right. It turns out that correct posture is vital to our overall health and longevity. Unfortunately, even those of us who were blessed by Mom’s nagging can have problems with our posture. Posture is simply how we hold our bodies when we are standing or sitting. One of the keys to healthy posture is how we hold our heads in relationship to our shoulders. Healthy posture includes aligning the head in a balance position over our shoulders. One especially damaging form of unhealthy posture is called Forward Head Posture or FHP in which the head is jutted forward in front of the shoulders.
The reason FHP is so damaging to health is due to the resulting stress to the soft tissues, especially the nerves, of the neck and back. This stress on the soft tissues may cause everything from neck pain, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome to temporal-mandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome. Even more alarming is research out of UCLA that discovered a 44 percent increased rate of death in people who have FHP. Specifically the research pointed to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or heart disease as the cause of the increased rate of death. The most likely explanation is that FHP simply chokes off the wiring (the nerves) going to the heart.
FHP is becoming more and more prevalent today due to the increased use of computers and also due to kid’s heavy backpacks. So many people are putting in eight hours a day, 40- plus hours a week, 50- plus weeks a year sitting looking at their monitor in an improper position. This repetitive positioning of the head slowly and surely creates FHP along with the resulting pain and, even worse, damage to one’s health.
Improper computer use is not the only “slow” way to developing FHP. A growing number of children are developing FHP due to the use of heavy school backpacks. Your child’s backpack should not weigh more than 10 percent of their bodyweight. For example, if your child weighs 70 pounds, their backpack should weigh no more than 7 pounds. Weigh your child’s backpack today and you may be surprised at just how much they are carrying.
Finally, whiplash sustained during a car accident is the most immediate cause of FHP. The amount of cars in America compared to other parts of the world puts us at an increased risk of being injured in a car crash at some point in our lifetime. Research has shown the possibility for whiplash injuries to occur at crash speeds as low as 8 to 10 mph. Of course, whiplash can occur from other accidents as well. In fact, whiplash has been found to be the most common high school football injury. Whiplash injury is common to a wide range of other sports as well, including wakeboarding, skiing and skateboarding.
Fortunately there is a solution to Forward Head Posture. Your spine can be realigned to its proper position similar to how misaligned teeth can be straightened. Just like the orthodontist has tools for realigning the teeth, your chiropractor trained in this type of spinal correction will use specific tools to realign your spine. One of the most important tools your chiropractor uses is a biomechanical analysis of you spinal x-rays. This enables your corrective chiropractor to specifically readjust the alignment of your vertebrae. Another vital tool is a traction device designed specifically to correct FHP which is custom fit for your particular misalignment. Generally this traction is used 10 minutes in the morning and, again, 10 minutes in the evening. Research has shown spinal correction cannot be attained without this type of spinal traction.
The other tool that your chiropractor will give you is exercises specific to your misalignment. These exercises will train the muscles to hold the head in your new corrected position. Head-weighting exercises in particular have been found to dramatically reduce the spinal correction time. Head-weighting is done for 20 minutes in the morning and evening.
Proper posture impacts every aspect of your life. Correcting FHP brings relief of neck pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other painful conditions. Most importantly correcting FHP frees your body’s wiring to keep your body running strong for a long, long time.
For corrective care, see your local chiropractor trained in these techniques and also, don’t forget to thank Mom.
Dr. Michael Norman of Key West Spine and Injury practices with an emphasis on spinal corrective care. This approach allows for quick relief and long lasting recovery from not only Forward Head Posture but also many other spinal traumas such as whiplash injuries. For more information, or to make an appointment, call 305-453-6610.