If you are experiencing neck pain and it feels as if it is related to your posture, and you want to start to get on top of the problem then this post is for you.
Shoulders always tight? Started to notice that you're chin pokes forward further than it used to?
As I have said in previous posts, neck pain is one of the most common reasons that people start to see us at Align. While there are many causes of neck pain one of the most likely reasons is poor posture. Specifically what is known as Forward Head Posture (which I call FHP below occasionally)
Forward head posture is when, as the name suggests, your head starts to move forward from its correct position, poking your chin out over your chest.
For many of you reading this post online, you know this posture as the one that your parents were always nagging you about when they would tell you to “stand up straight!” but you always thought it was an annoying waste of time.
I’m sorry to tell you, this is just one of those times when your parents were right. I know…so lame.
Why should I care?
Issues that can arise from FHP include (but are not limited to):
- Neck pain,
- Tight and restricted neck movement,
- Arm and shoulder pain,
- Tingling in the arms and hands,
- Issues with your jaw,
- Sinus issues,
- Increased kyphosis (hump in upper back),
- Low back pain,
- Degenerative joint disease in your neck and mid back.
Ok…that seems like plenty of problems…but doesn't it happen to everyone? Isn’t it normal?
FHP is VERY common yes, but it isn't “normal”.
The thing is, forward head posture has not always been as prevalent as it is today.
Throughout history, the people who suffered from FHP have tended to be only those to have spent to have spent a lot of time being sedentary.
In the past (and I don’t mean ancient times, I am talking literally only in the last 40 years) as a society in the western world, we have become less active and spend more time at desks and in front of computers especially.
As a result, more commonly our heads are starting to drift forward as we spend time at a screen, or commuting and this is starting to have lasting effects.
In my personal experience as a chiropractor, I have begun to see more children visiting for postural related issues, and even begun to see degenerative changes on teenager’s neck X-rays regularly that when I was at university I was told to begin to expect when people were in their 30s!
Perhaps the best example of this change in demographics though comes in reference to that hump in the upper back I mentioned earlier.
Our mid back, called our thoracic spine is meant to have a natural forward curve (which is known as a kyphosis). FHP causes extra strain and pull on this area and over a long period of time, this leads to an increase in this forward curve, causing a bump in our upper back.
When I was studying, we learned that this issue was called a “Dowager’s Hump”. You see, traditionally, FHP lasting for a long period was something the medical profession associated almost exclusively with old ladies.
Society ladies to be specific, being the most common members of the community who were expected (wrongly, obviously thats sexist) to be sedentary (think Maggie Smith’s character in Downton Abbey).
This condition as the name suggests was quite exclusive, normally expected in ladies who were old enough to have outlived their husbands. Hence, it was named for the dowagers who exhibited it.
Flash forward to today and it has a new name beginning to appear in medical research literature. So new in fact that I had never heard of it until doing some research about this post.
I won’t bore you with the details but see if you can guess which age group are the most likely sufferers are. The new name? iHunch.
Think of how bad you feel when you spend a day with your head leant in at a screen.
Now think of the posture you find yourself in, or you see in children on a smartphone of tablet. We usually have it so far down, our head isn’t forward, it’s straight out flat!
How does FHP actually cause neck pain etc?
Always remember, our body gets better at anything you ask it to do, but it is also always looking to do it using the smallest amount of energy possible.
It is virtually impossible to spend your whole day sitting and keep perfect posture so if we keep insisting that we spend multiple hours a day sitting in front of a screen, over time our body starts to change and the reason is simple. Weight.
Just like you can’t hold a heavy barbell up all day every day, our body fatigues from our sitting position and eventually drops into a rounded back and head forward position, and this is where the trouble starts.
Our heads are heavy. We have a heavy brain and a thick skull to protect it. Some of us more so than others.
You know how when you hold something out in front of you and it feels heavier than it does when you bring it in close to your body? Our head works the same way.
In fact, for every 2.5cm our head sits forward from it’s ideal position, our shoulders and neck have to deal with an extra 4.5kg.
To illustrate, 4.5kg is roughly the weight of a number 10 bowling ball. All day, every day, being held by your neck and your upper back.
How far forward is your head when you look at your phone? Or your tablet device?
Is it any wonder then why it gives us neck pain etc?
So what can I do about it?
Plenty, and its never too early nor too late to make changes.
Next, look at our post about “Text Neck”.
Thirdly, get help. You want to know what your exact situation is and what you need to do specifically.
You don’t want to spend months attempting to change your posture and accidentally be focusing on the wrong type of exercises for you, wasting time or even making your situation worse.
You’ll see in this post a picture of FHP taken on a device that we use to assess our client’s posture. We LOVE this as it gives us specifics of where your major issues lie, and even gives us a weight of how much your head effectively weighs for your upper back to hold onto, versus how much it ACTUALLY weighs.
This allows us to know in real time if our care plan is moving you in the correct direction and make individual amendments for you where necessary.
*Please note, there are other underlying conditions that may cause alterations in posture that should not be left un-diagnosed, especially if they are rapid in onset and/or progression, or if they are present in younger people.
If you have concerns about your posture, or the posture of those close to you, please get in contact with us at Align.