The human body is a finely-tuned piece of art and machinery. Throw something out of balance and the body fights to restore that balance. It will also constantly adapt to its environment according to repetitive stresses placed on it. This is why your cardiovascular system becomes more efficient as you walk, run, swim or bike regularly or your muscles gain size and endurance from certain types of workouts.
Unfortunately, the body can also be reshaped in ways that are harmful as a result of repeated stress from poor posture, creating a “new normal”.
The “head forward” posture is a state of imbalance where the head, at rest, is leaning forward. Normally, the head is squarely over the shoulders, but with a “head forward” posture, the head is somewhat over the chest. Sometimes this condition is referred to as “forward head posture” or “anterior head translation.”
Forward head posture can be the result of whiplash. An abrupt stop or collision during a traffic accident can force the neck to lose its natural curvature and become straighter. A 2012 study published by the National Institutes of Health found that heavy computer users also tend to have head forward posture. Even emotional conditions such as depression can cause one to not feel like holding their head up high.
Head forward posture can result in headaches. In fact, most neck pain not resulting from whiplash will find poor posture at least partially responsible. Left untreated, this condition can worsen for obvious reasons. For every inch of forward movement, the head exerts an additional 10 pounds of force on the back muscles. This constant force moves the head forward even farther as the back muscles struggle to hold onto the head. Patients with head forward posture have also been known to suffer a 30% loss in vital lung capacity.
If this condition persists in the long term (“hyperkyphotic posture”), it can result in what’s known as “Dowager’s Hump,” which can sometimes be debilitating. One study found that hyperkyphotic posture (persistent head forward posture) can increase the rate of mortality by a factor of up to 1.44 times normal.
Treatments of head forward posture tend to be conservative. Chiropractic adjustments can help the head to remain over the shoulders. Not only will these fix the misalignment of the spine resulting from head forward posture, but the adjustments will reinvigorate the muscles which retract the head, allowing a reversal of the condition. There are also several exercises that your chiropractor can recommend to strengthen the muscles that retract the head.