When you hold a bowling ball close to your body, it has a certain weight to it. But hold the bowling ball about a foot ahead of your body, it FEELS heavier. Why is that? Well, consider physics and your center of gravity. The bowling ball is the same weight, but you need to expend more energy to hold it up, because you’ve created a LEVER ARM.
If you hold your head forward of your center of gravity, would the same apply? Absolutely. You’re effectively cantilevering your head in front of your center of gravity! This may work great for Frank Lloyd Wright‘s work, but it puts undue stress on the biotensegrity structure that is the human body.
As we silly humans develop habits that have us craning our heads forward over our center of gravity (use of computers, laptops, cell phones, care of small children), our bodies develop a “habit” or learned position of Forward Head Posture. Sometimes this abnormality is mostly soft tissue (muscle, ligaments, fascia) in origin, but more often it’s due to a neurostructural issue such as spinal subluxation which actually restricts the ability to easily “straighten up.” Spinal subluxation is a condition where abnormal (restricted, or in some cases, unstable) position or movement of spinal segment(s) affects the function of the nervous system that lives within the spine, whether by irritation, dampening, or abnormal feedback loops. In other words, having your head forward of your center of gravity in your normal weightbearing stance has consequences for your nervous system function. Which sounds kind of important....
HOW exactly might abnormal spinal position affect your nervous system? While previous research has clearly outlined the biomechanical necessity for a normal spinal structure, and while published research has demonstrated the connection between forward head posture and number of physiological consequences such as headaches, vertigo, reduced breath capacity, and increased predisposition towards spinal decay (arthritis and degenerative disc disease), a recently published paper has taken the next logical step to shed more light on the impact of abnormal spinal position on nervous system function, in affected individuals as compared to case-matched normal control subjects.
The just-released research was a joint effort between one of the leading producers of quality research in Chiropractic, CBP (Chiropractic Biophysics) Nonprofit, and investigators in UAE, China, and Egypt. This unique team of investigators determined that forward head posture negatively affects both the cervical sensorimotor system (brain’s control of the neck spine position and movement) and the autonomic nervous system (brain’s control of adaptive function of the internal organs). Check it out:
So when is the best time to counteract this clear problem of the spine, that can clearly detract from the optimal function of the body’s nervous system, and by extension, the body’s optimal health and wellness? Well, I will simply say that the problem gets harder to correct the longer it has been going on. We tend to see more rapid response and correction from our teenage patients and our young adults than our middle-aged folks and older. The problem is that once forward head posture has caused proper damage, the potential for correction becomes progressively limited. In short, if you’ve got this, the time to address is is now - not later.
Do you feel like your head has been heavy lately, and not just because it’s full of rocks? Stand with your back to the wall, and see if you can easily touch the back of your head to the wall, and maintain that posture. If that’s uncomfortable, then chances are good you need to get adjusted, which will restore your spine’s freedom and your ability to stand up straight with minimal effort.
The best way to determine whether your forward head posture is detracting from your overall health, and to determine whether you can correct or improve this abnormality, is to have your spine checked. There’s nothing quite like the black and white (and greyscale) of X-rays to get a clear picture of what’s going on, and to determine whether something needs a nudge in the right direction. We’ve helped a lot of people to restore their normal healthy function, and we hope we’ll be able to help you, too - this is the area of expertise of a chiropractor, and we’re well-trained to help you identify and correct forward head posture and its nervous system manifestations. Call us if you’d like to talk about what’s the next step. We’ll be happy to share our expertise on this subject and help to guide you towards a solution that may end up enhancing your whole life.