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Forward Head Posture and Neck Instability

Because of the rising popularity of media devices such as smartphones and computers, frequent users often exhibit incorrect posture.

Anterior Head Carriage

Anterior Head Carriage


Forward head posture (FHP) is a poor habitual neck posture. It often co-exists with a condition called Upper Cross Syndrome (Hunchback).

  • Defined by hyperextension of the upper cervical vertebrae and forward translation of the cervical vertebrae.
  • Thoracic Kyphosis (Hunchback) is a complication of the combination of slouched-forward shoulders and rounded upper back.
  • Can lead to a painful shortening of the muscles of the back of the neck, as well as compression of the cervical vertebrae—the uppermost portion of the spine that supports the head and protects the spinal cord.

Due to the increased compressive forces through the neck joints and increased muscle tension, pain and headaches are common outcomes. Very common problems associated with forward head posture and cervical instability are:

  • Headaches
  • Neck discomfort
  • Pinched Nerves of the neck or back
  • TMJ issues
  • Head feels heavy and neck gets tired
  • Tinnitus, Ringing of the ears
  • Meniere’s Syndrome
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dizziness, Vertigo
  • Muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
  • Dull and achy pain in the mid back
  • Chest pain and tightness
  • Pain, pins & needles and numbness in the arms and hands

Many people develop chronic or recurrent problems because they receive treatment for the pain (e.g. pain killers or anti-inflammatory medication) but never receive treatment for the actual cause of their Forward Head Posture.

As the head continues to gradually slide forward, the continued and increased strain causes more stretching and tearing on the back of the neck neck supporting structures and puts nerves and veins in the front  of the neck at risk for herniation, compression and injury and destabilization.

As the cervical spine destabilizes and moves forward, so do the vital structures (nerves, arteries, veins) within the neck undergo torsion, stretch and compression including the autonomic nervous system nerves (which can cause dysfunction in heart rate, digestion, breathing among other symptoms) and blood vessels on their way to or from the brain. (Possibly causing issues with dizziness and fainting).  Flexion and extension of the cervical spine generates tension and pull on the brain stem, medulla, and cranial nerves V-XII.

To take pressure off of the neck, discs, and soft tissues, correcting the curve is crucial. Green Chiropractic are specialists in structural remodeling of the neck and back.

How heavy is your head?

For every inch of forward head posture, the force on the spine increases by an additional 10-12 pounds. A forward head posture causes a slow stretching of posterior neck ligaments which is a phenomenon known as ligament creep. On the right, the head weight pressure of the neck is equal to balancing a 42-pound weight. This is where neck problems accelerate.

Forward Head Posture Weight

Forward Head Posture Weight

Cervical ligament laxity can slowly develop through many repeated hours of forward head posture, such as practiced when working on the computer or bent over a smartphone. This phenomenon, defined as the elongation of a ligament under a constant or repetitive stress, is known as CREEP. Creep does not occur in a linear or acute way; on the contrary, the problem develops and evolves overtime. While this gradual ligament degenerative disease represents a “low level” sub-failure ligament injuries, they represent the vast majority of cervical instability cases and can potentially incapacitate people (from a pain and disability standpoint) with unremitting pain and vertigotinnitus and the host of potential symptoms that occur from cervical instability listed above. Therefore ligamentous cervical instability (neck instability caused by stretched ligaments), especially upper cervical instability caused by ligament stretching, is often the missing structural cause and/or co-morbidity for many chronic disabling symptoms and diagnoses. At this point, a person cannot simply “Stand Up Straight”. If they try, it will probably fell weird and awkward or even be somewhat painful. If you tell your child to stand up straight and they protest saying it hurts, this is a sign they might have forward head posture. Luckily, Green Chiropractic in Omaha can help to reshape these necks back to more near normal posture. Call Green Chiropractic at 402-933-5392

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