The need for chiropractic care has significantly increased with advances in mobile technology and the reality that the public is constantly “connected”. About three years ago I started to notice more and more people coming to my office with similar complaints. They all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and sometimes numbness or tingling into the arms. In some instances I would walk into the room at the second visit to give my report of findings and review the patient’s x-rays only to find them buried in their blackberry or iPhone, head flexed forward texting and straining to see the screen. “So Doc, tell me, why is my neck so sore?”
At younger and younger ages, I am seeing a reversed cervical (neck) curve with mild degenerative changes. In other words, spinal damage is occurring in patients much too young to be experiencing these bony changes.
In many patients, these hand-held devices are their primary mode of communication. These days, people are constantly “connected” to their hand-held devices whether it is their cell phones, portable video games like Nintendo, e-readers or using apps on their iPhones. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that young people 8-18 years old spend in excess of seven-and-a-half hours per day using some form of mobile media. As a result, this younger demographic will surely be presenting to chiropractic offices with more forward head posture (FHP) and subsequent conditions.
Look around you and you will see people with forward head posture using hand-held mobile devices at tables in restaurants, hockey games, red lights in their cars, walking through mall, in line at the grocery store and even sitting in my exam rooms!
Chiropractors frequently conduct screenings to educate the public on the importance of good posture and explain how poor posture negatively affects the body’s ability to function. If a patient has FHP, then they will have rolled shoulders, a concave chest can follow, and often a pelvic tuck. Of course, forward head posture is certainly not a new condition and it is a common reason for visits to chiropractic offices already. Chiropractors have been treating and educating our patients on the dangers of FHP for years, and the health conditions that FHP contributes to are well-researched and documented.
Forward Head Posture (FHP)
Long-term forward neck posture leads to “long-term muscle strain, disc herniations and pinched nerves.” (Mayo Clinic Health Letter, March 2000)
According to Rene Caillet MD, director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California, FHP can:
- Add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine which can pull the entire spine out of alignment
- Result in a loss of vital capacity of the lungs by as much as 30 percent. This shortness of breath can lead to heart and blood vascular disease.
- The entire gastrointestinal system is affected; particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common effect of FHP.
- It can cause an increase in discomfort and pain because proprioceptive signals from the first four cervical vertebrae are a major source of the stimuli which create the body’s pain controlling chemicals (endorphins). With inadequate endorphin production, many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain. FHP dramatically reduces endorphin production.
- FHP has been shown to flatten the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, damage and early arthritis. (Journal of Spine, 1986)
- FHP can interfere with various feedback mechanisms of mechanoreceptor, which connect through various brain regions responsible for emotion. Poor posture can contribute to depressive emotions.
- The ongoing increase weight-bearing of the head to the postural muscles, which are not designed for this degree of stress, can create long term scar tissue formation and increased tissue sensitivity.
While the problems associated with Forward Head Posture have been known for some time, they are cumulative. The sooner you take steps to correct this problem, the healthier and less damage there will be!
Chiropractors are well- known for helping patients overcome the problem of Forward Head posture – and not just for the relief of pain, but for maximum restoration of lost function and alignment. If you spend a significant amount of time texting, or suffer from neck pain or headaches, schedule a chiropractic appointment! You’ll be glad you did!
~ Dr. G