back of neckIf you’re like I was, you might wonder how a chiropractor can help you overcome things like asthma, heart disease or carpel tunnel. It all links back to the “arc of life” found in your neck.

When any one of the four natural curves in the spine is misaligned, stress affects the spinal discs, tissues and nerves.

One of the most prevalent and destructive imbalances has to do with the cervical curve, the natural curve in the vertebrae of the neck. When we lose the proper curvature of the cervical and lumbar curves, we lose as much as 50% of our spinal strength.

Forward Head Posture

For every inch that your head is held forward, (rather than balanced properly over the body) it gains ten pounds of weight. The muscles of your back and neck have to work that much harder to keep your chin off your chest and the muscles of your chin stay in constant contraction, compressing nerves and leading to headaches at the base of the skull or those that mimic sinus headaches.

This “forward head posture,” says University of California’s director of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Rene Cailliet, “can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage…” pulling “the entire spine out of alignment” and “may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity.”

Chiropractor Adam Meade explains that the curve of your cervical verterbrae are referred to as “the arc of life” by neurosurgeons because these bones protect the brain stem and are the thoroughfare for spinal nerves that affect every organ and function in the body.

Subluxation is the term for the compression and irritation of nerves because of misalignments of the spine. When the cervical curve is misaligned, the spinal cord stretches and shrinks in circumference, Meade says, losing nerve conductivity.

Chiropractors make adjustments to the spine and help teach clients posture and habits that reverse these misalignments, restoring the body’s natural functions and healing capabilities.

What Causes Forward Head Posture?

Forward head posture is caused by:

  • Computer use
  • TV watching
  • Video games
  • Backpacks
  • Trauma

Trauma leading to forward head posture can come in the form of car accidents, slips or falls, or even birthing trauma from forceps or vacuums.

A 1999 study published in the November issue of Spine took a look at 985 students from five different high school years and the effects of carrying backpacks. The postural changes that occurred in “the arc of life” were significant with backpack use in every case. The weight of the backpack did not matter as much as the age and sex of students: younger students had the greatest deformity of posture and the oldest girls also incurred strong forward head posture.

At the 1997 Seattle Fibromyalgia International Team Conference, Dr. Herbert Gordon explained that head and neck posture is a major factor in the fatigue and immune dysfunction in sufferers of fibromyalgia (FMS) and CFIDS patients, chronic fatigue and immune system dysfunction syndrome.

The clusters of small, layered muscles at the top of the spine can begin to atrophy in as little as 20 minutes, Gordon said, when unused. He reported that a 1985 study found postural problems common in people that suffer from FMS, myofacial pain syndrome and TMJ. The study found poor sitting and standing posture in 96% of the cases; forward head posture in 85% of the cases; and forward and rounded shoulders in 82% of the cases.

Dr. Dean Fishman has seen increasing cases of FHP in young patients and has termed the condition “text neck.” He says that the degenerative bone changes and abnormal cervical curve in these younger patients is related to the use of hand-held devices such as cell phones, portable video games and e-readers.

Problems Associated with FHP

FHP can cause:

  • Aches, fatigue, pain
  • Asthma
  • Disc compression
  • Early arthritis
  • Headaches
  • TMJ (temperomandibular joint) pain
  • Altered blood flow
  • Fibromyalgia

Forward head posture may also contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Roger Sperry says that “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” Only 10% of our brain’s energy goes into thinking, metabolism and healing. 90% of brain energy goes into processing and maintaining the body’s relationship with gravity, Sperry demonstrated.

As forward head posture decreases lung capacity, it can lead to asthma, blood vessel problems, and heart disease. The oxygen deficit affects the entire gastrointestinal system and can decrease endorphin production. This turns the perception of non-painful sensation into pain experiences, says Dr. Fishman.

A wellness or corrective care chiropractor can measure the curve of your “arc of life,” give you regular adjustments, lead you in spinal rehabilitation exercises and teach you postural and working habits that will greatly improve your health and quality of life.

Sources

The Chiropractic Resource Organization (2000)

Dr. Frank M. Painter (2009)

Dr. Adam Meade (2010)

The Chiropractic Resource Organization (1997)

Denver Tech (2010)

Dr. Dean Fishman (2010)

Dr. Axe's Action Steps

Dr. Axe
  1. Find a wellness or corrective care chiropractor who can determine if you have lost any of the vital curvatures in your spine, specifically in your “arc of life.”
  2. Minimize your time sitting in front of a computer.
  3. If it can’t be avoided, use an ergonomic chair (or sit on the edge of your chair) and position your computer screen at a height directly in front of your eye line.
  4. Don’t overload your child’s backpack (or yours, if you use one). Visit the Backpack Safety America site for tips on using a backpack.