See if you can guess the answer; it may be tougher than you think. What condition can cause all of the following health issues, even simultaneously? Headaches, neck pain, low back pain, sleep apnea, low energy, weight gain, decreased libido, joint pain and reduced lung capacity. A little hint; it affects between 66-90% of our adult population and has become much more prevalent within the past 15 years. It’s not a disease, not a bacteria or virus, but a self-induced condition. And the condition is…..Forward Head Posture!! I know you are asking, how in the world can head position cause all of those horrible issues I listed earlier? The simple answer is “technology”.
According to a recent statistic, Americans spend on average 7.4 hours looking at screens every day, 26 minutes per day just texting (18-24-year-old texters send over 2000 texts per month), and almost 13 hours per day sitting. Add to that the general lack of activities which promote healthy posture and it’s not hard to understand why so many are suffering. Newton’s third law of physics states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The adult head weighs, on average, about 10 lbs.; when it is in proper alignment, the forces needed to remain upright are negligible. But, for every inch the head moves forward of normal, the functional weight doubles (1”=20 lbs., 2”=40 lbs., etc.), so if we apply Newton’s third law we see that as the head moves forward, there has to be an equal and opposite reaction somewhere else in the body. This is the very reason why those with Forward Head Posture (FHP) generally appear with a protruding belly, forward sloping shoulders and an apparent decrease in height.
These same compensation reactions are exactly what causes imbalances within the muscular system as well as altered function in the spine and extremity joints. What that means to you is this– unnecessary degenerative changes, fibrotic tissue buildup and pain. So if you want to feel better, appear 1-2 inches taller and look more confident, it can be as simple as correcting your FHP. But what about the sleep apnea, weight gain, lung capacity and libido you ask? A 2013 study by Dimitriadis demonstrated that FHP alters the strength of the breathing muscles which can reduce your vital lung capacity by 30%. Can you imagine how this might affect someone with COPD or how correcting the FHP could skyrocket an athlete’s overall performance? Now we know that testosterone increases libido in men and that the stress hormone cortisol helps to keep us “plump”. A 2010 study by Carney et al. demonstrated that correcting FHP can increase testosterone levels by 20% while at the same time decreasing cortisol levels by over 25%. This is amazing!! As for snoring and sleep apnea, it is basic physiology.
Misalignment of the head and torso partially block your airway, starving your brain of oxygen and severely disrupting your sleep patterns.
At this point I know you are asking yourself, “So what can I do about it?” The answer to that question is, a lot. The issue with correcting FHP and subsequent postural distortions is that in order to accomplish the task, a protocol needs to be established that “unwinds” (both stretching and strengthening) the muscles in the proper order. Remember, it takes years of negative input to create poor posture, so be patient and understand that it will take some time to restore your optimal body position. Now that we are aware of the potential problems associated with FHP, next time we will demonstrate how to properly assess your posture and give you tips on how to begin the correction process.