Wondering why you have neck pain or Degenerative Disc Disease? This post explains how a condition called Forward Head Syndrome is the culprit.
Seen standing upright from the side someone with perfect posture would have an imaginary center of gravity line running from just in front of their ear hole through the slight bump on the top-middle of their shoulder. Normally, the center of gravity of their head is slightly forward of this line so that a very slight muscle tone is required to keep the head looking forward. This tone may act to prevent sudden uncontrolled movements of the head, or lolling (you will have personal experienced of this if you have ever fallen asleep sitting up where your head will fall forwards and your inactive muscles suddenly crank up into action and you jerk upright again).
What you get in anterior head carriage is the center of gravity of the head moving a significant distance forward of the correct center of gravity line. In some cases I have seen this has been up to 50 mm forward of the correct line.
The problem is increasingly prevalent because of what we do in our lives and, I suspect, is set to get worse and worse as the smartphone generation grow up. It is easy to spot, just go and stand next to someone and look to see if their ear hole is forward of the mid-shoulder line. I suspect you’ll be surprised how prevalent it is, in fact I think if you did a statistical analysis of your friends it would be the statistical norm, but still wrong, posture. How many of these people are masking symptoms with taking Tylenol, Motrin and Aspirin.
How does it occur?
The key cause is computer use, especially laptops and smartphones. Carrying heavy bags or back packs, lazy posture and television time with little or no exercise also don’t help but it is the eight hours a day for 30 years that really does the trick especially if it starts when you are young – say in your teens. Computer work keeps you in a static position (usually a forward curved position as well) for long periods of time, which is why getting up and moving around every 15-20 minutes will help.
Backpacks also do it by increasing the overall load on the spine as well as by focusing that extra load onto the shoulders, which is where the major muscles that attach to the back of the skull originate, so putting a much larger strain onto the mechanism of anterior head carriage than the weight of the load would indicate.
The other place it I have seen it is in young girls who are tall and they are trying to hide height, though this is getting less common as they don’t fret about it as much as they used to.
What’s the problem with it?
The way you achieve anterior head carriage is by straightening your cervical spine from C2 to C7 and in some extreme cases I have even seen reverse curving in the neck.
In terms of skeletal problems this means that you are removing the elegant shock absorbing cervical curve and turning the neck into a column which transfers the weight of the head straight down the neck through the discs and the posterior facets leading to disc damage and facet injury. This also places the cervical facets in an abnormal position which means they are far more likely to sustain injury. It is rare for a patient to present at the clinic with non-traumatic acute posterior facet syndrome (you know the sort of thing – the "I don’t know what I did but I woke up like this" cricked neck complaint) who has not got significant anterior head carriage. Also with anterior head carriage the posterior fibers of the disc annulus get stretched which increases the risk of posterior disc rupture, protrusion or bulge and the subsequent events associated with these grim conditions.
In neurological terms a straight cervical spine means that your spinal cord, and therefore nearly every nerve in your body, is physically straightened. Imagine trying to straighten out a banana; what happens? The banana gets squashed, the same thing happens to the spinal cord. Now, nerves are designed to take this stretch as you look down but only for a short time and there are a multitude of studies out there showing the changed anatomy of the spinal cord in a chronic anterior head carriage patient. Stretched nerves have been shown to function less effectively(disease) and their axoplasmic flow is reduced.
From the perspective of upper cervical care, when your head and neck are no longer in proper alignment to each other, your muscles have to pick up the slack of supporting your head. This results in a higher muscle tone in your neck and upper back leading to trigger points in the Traps and Lev Scap muscles and Pain. No wonder people have shoulder trigger points that never seem to resolve; the underlying problem hasn’t been resolved and the outcome will remain the same.
The result is neck and upper back pain, restricted cervical bio-mechanics and all the physiological changes that would be associated with an abnormally functioning neck and upper spine.
Now in some people I have seen there are no perceptible problems at all but in others there have been a slew of neck pain, Dizziness, Ringing in the ears, headaches, upper body fatigue, sleep disorders, TMJ Problems and the list goes on and on. And……….. I would be willing to bet that more than a few people have been mistakenly diagnosed with migraine head ache or tension headache who, in reality, have anterior head carriage and tragic cervical biomechanics.
So give upper cervical care a try today and maybe get back on track, get your power set free and regenerate to live long, strong, tall and healthy.
(Editor's note: Remember the objective of upper cervical care is to correct head neck misalignment that is interfering with proper brain to body communication. When this is corrected the body functions at a higher level and can often correct other problems more efficiently on its own. Please do not confuse upper cervical care as a treatment for any condition, disease or symptom.)