By Dr. Larry Bridge for the SNAP
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 —
The effect of poor posture on health is becoming more evident and is an ever increasing problem. One researcher reports increases in spinal pain, headaches, mood swings, blood pressure, pulse, accelerated aging and decreased lung capacity are caused by poor posture. The bottom line is that many symptoms, including pain, may be helped by improving postural defects or abnormal posture.
The most common postural problem is known as “forward head posture” (FHP). The constant use of computers, cell phones, electronic devices, backpacks and head forward or head down activities such as studying or reading force the body to adapt to a forward head posture. It is the repetition of these excessive forward head movements combined with poor ergonomic postures and trauma (like auto injury) that train the body to adapt to a forward head posture.
Ideally the head should sit directly on the head and shoulders, like a golf ball sits on a tee. The weight of the head is similar to a bowling ball, so holding it forward, out of alignment, puts a constant strain on the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. A Mayo Clinic newsletter from March 2000 reports that FHP leads to long term muscle strain, headaches, disc herniations, arthritis, degenerative disc disease and pinched nerves. It can also cause TMJ or jaw problems, fibromyalgia, rib cage compression, back pain, balance problems, vertigo and altered gait and foot problems. Chronic muscle changes occur due to constant strain, blood vessel changes and tissue remodeling and this is why massage therapy is usually only temporary relief for neck pain for someone with FHP when the real cause is not addressed.
FHP is easy to detect. Looking at a person from the side, find the center of the shoulder and draw an imaginary line up. It should go through the middle of the ear hole. If the imaginary line is behind the ear, that person has forward head posture and should be professionally evaluated. For every one inch of forward head posture the weight of the head doubles. An average head weighs about 13 pounds. With one inch of forward head posture it then weighs 26 pounds. The supporting structures have double the mechanical forces acting on them and problems gradually occur.
Ergonomics – Make sure the top one-third of your computer monitor is level with your eyes. The screen should be 18-24” from your face. When texting, hold your phone in front of you at eye level. Use head neutral postures when reading, studying or watching TV to avoid looking down.
Pillows – Sleep on one pillow; it’s best if it’s a contour or cervical pillow.
Posture Correction Exercises – Four-five times a day, sit up straight and pull the neck and head back over the shoulders. Hold for a count of five, then do 15-20 repetitions.
Supports – It’s best to use a lumbar support with prolonged sitting or driving. By supporting the lower back, the head and neck will move back over the shoulders.
Backpacks – Backpack weight should be no more than 15 percent of the child’s weight. Never wear backpacks over one shoulder. The best backpacks include waist and chest straps.
See a chiropractor for a postural evaluation and exercises to help with your posture. Get regular adjustments to keep your spine in alignment for optimum health. Monitoring good posture is a lifetime commitment. With a little effort and a chiropractor on your healthcare team, you can be assured of a future doing things you love to do rather than suffering from the damages and symptoms poor posture can bring, and you will also look younger.