The 42 Pound Head

by Erik Dalton Ph.D., Certified Advanced Rolfer
founder of Freedom From Pain Institute

Researchers tell us that for every inch the head moves forward of the shoulders, weight is increased by 10 pounds. Therefore, a 12 pound head held 3 inches forward, forces the cervical extensors (semispinalis, splenii, longissimus, upper traps, etc.) to isometrically restrain 42 pounds against the unrelenting force of gravity. And we wonder why so many clients present with degenerative disc disease, head pain and TMJ.

Forward Head Postures such as the Upper Crossed Syndrome (Fig. 1) results from poor sleeping positions, driving stress, computer neck, whiplash, and improper breathing habits. Pain arises from muscle strain, disc herniations, arthritis, pinched nerves and overstretching of the spinal cord.

A major part of head, neck, jaw and shoulder pain is due to poor posture, tension, trauma, and central nervous system malregulation. These symptoms may manifest as fibromyalgia, myofascial tender points, TMJ, and chronic fatigue syndromes.

The following symptoms typically accompany this Upper Crossed strain pattern:

– Suboccipital pain syndromes
– Mouth breathing (sleep apnea)
– Difficulty swallowing
– Teeth clenching
– Face & neck pain
– Migraine headaches

The extra pressure imposed on the neck from the altered posture flattens the normal curve of the cervical spine resulting in abnormal strain of muscles, ligaments, fascia and bones (Fig 2).

According to the prestigious Spine Journal, 2006; 6:591-694,forward head carriage causes accelerated aging of intervertebral joints resulting in degenerative disc disease (cervical osteoarthritis) and osteoporosis (Fig.3).

The effects of poor posture extend far beyond just looking awkward. In fact, according to the January, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Pain Management, posture and function are related in that poor posture is evident in clients with chronic pain-related conditions including low back pain, neck related headaches, and stress-related illnesses.

Posture affects and modulates every function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by poor posture. According to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter Vol. 18, #3, March 2000, the effects of long term forward neck posture lead to “myospasm, disc herniations, osteoporosis and pinched nerves.”

When spinal tissues are subjected to prolonged compression, they deform and undergo a remodeling that can become permanent. Correction of Upper Crossed neck posture is key to stopping and reversing decay, degenerative disc disease and pain from headaches, rib dysfunction, TMJ, and Dowager’s Humps… but it takes time and a concerted effort using modalities such as Myoskeletal Alignment (R) (Fig. 4) to repair the damage caused by faulty neck posture.

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Filed under body mechanics, Forward Heads, Myoskeletal Alignment, pain management, Uncategorized

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