McTimoney Chiropractor in Pontardawe and Swansea
Michael Jones 
Available on 01792 830561 or 07717001331or 01792651717 
   Home      Forward Head Carriage

Is Your Head Blowing Around in the Wind Like a Sunflower ? 

Neck injury, vertebral misalignment, poor posture and incorrect athletic training are common causes forward slumping posture (anterior head carriage). You have anterior head carriage if the opening of your ear canal is forward from the centre of your shoulder. You may notice many people have this posture, but just because anterior head carriage is the average, don't be confused into thinking anterior head carriage is normal. As with many social phenomenon, average in this case does not mean normal. Just because most people you know have headaches or low back pain does not mean it is normal for you to have either of these complaints, ever.

When the centre of your ear is directly over the centre of your shoulder, your head balances upon your neck. Balanced head carriage requires minimal neck muscle effort to hold your head upright. With this head and neck alignment upon your body's central axis, only small, short duration neck muscle contractions are required to keep your head centred over your body. For example, just like when you are dosing off while sitting upright, your head may begin falling forward, backward or to your side. When this happens, your neck muscles automatically perform brief contractions, nudging your head back into its upright position.

The permanently fallen forward head position of anterior head carriage requires constant neck muscle effort to keep your head upright. Three times the muscular effort is required to support your head upright for every inch of anterior head carriage. Therefore, anterior head carriage unnecessarily drains your energy like leaving your car lights turned on while it is parked in your garage. This can mean the head weighs the equivalent of 48lbs at worst!

Besides draining your energy, anterior head carriage stresses your neck muscles. The muscles holding your head upright are posture muscles, intended for the brief contractions required for balancing your head upon your neck, and not intended for constant contraction under load. Constant posture muscle contraction from anterior head carriage causes stiffness, aches and pains of your neck, head and upper back posture muscles. Anterior head carriage is a major cause for neck, shoulder and upper back tension, muscle spasm, muscle trigger points and pain, tension headaches and migraine headaches.

Normal neck curvature acts like a spring, absorbing shock from activities like the pounding associated with walking, running and bouncing up and down while riding in a moving vehicle. Anterior head carriage straightens and even reverses your normal neck curve, and by disrupting your neck spring, subjects your neck to the pounding forces of life that cause injury to your intervertebral discs, and vertebral facet joints (joints on the back of your spine that relate a vertebra to the one above and the one below).

Intervertebral disc and facet joint stress from anterior head carriage makes us greatly prone to acute neck joint injury and intervertebral disc bulging, disc protrusion and disc rupture.

Anterior head carriage causes neck tightness and pain of "unknown origin," called facet syndrome, as in, "I must have slept on it wrong" pain. Long term consequences of anterior head carriage include degenerative joint and degenerative disc diseases, arthritis and neck vertebra compression fracture.

Anterior head carriage curves your upper back and neck forward, compressing your ribs downward, backward and together as if your upper body is frozen at the time while your breath is fully exhaled. This compression occurs in direct opposition to the opening up -- expansion upward and outward of your head, neck and thorax motion and position of inhalation. Restricted inhalation from anterior head carriage reduces your lung capacity and it causes the shallower, more frequent breathing associated with nervousness, anxiety and depression. This anterior head carriage with its restricted breath and restricted upper body motion is a major impediment to exercise and to strenuous activity. Anterior head carriage is the body language for resignation, for giving up.

The experience of mental and emotional stresses occurring from anterior head carriage fatigues your adrenal glands and leads to endocrine imbalances, digestive disorders, immune problems, problems with blood sugar management.

The forward position of your neck and upper back draws your shoulders forward and together. Disoriented shoulder position abnormally alters your normal shoulder motion, causing improper joint mechanics, shoulder joint degeneration, and it greatly increases your risk for shoulder injury, inflammation, weakness and pain.

Straightening or reversal of your neck curve permanently stretches your spinal cord and brain stem as much as 7 centimeters. This spinal cord stretching pulls tension upon your spinal nerve roots and their nerve branches disrupting nutrient, waste product and neurotransmitter flow along your nervous system, impairing control and regulation of all your physical systems and functions.

Anterior head carriage is a serious condition responsible for neck, shoulder and back stiffness and pain, headaches, mental and physical fatigue, sleep disorders, adrenal gland stress, hormone imbalance, digestive problems, immune problems, infection, Fibromyalgia and so on. You may think chiropractic, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage, etc. is relieving your neck and shoulder tension and joint misalignments. However, as long as you have anterior head carriage, your neck will remain permanently misaligned, causing considerable mechanical, neurological, muscular and gravitational stresses in your life

What You Can Do For Your Anterior Head Carriage ?

Positioning of your head properly upon your centre of gravity is a highest priority, and must begin by eliminating all factors causing anterior head carriage. First perform a self assessment. Hang a plumb line from above your head to just above the floor. Stand to the side with the line passing at the front part of your ankle. Looking from the side, the line should be centred on your knee, hip, shoulder and ear canal. Have a buddy take a picture or just mark on your body where the line passes at the level of your shoulder and head. If your ear canal is forward of the plumb line, measure the distance. This is the extent of your anterior head carriage.

Next, begin sitting and standing in a way which aligns your ear canal over the centre of your shoulders. Then strengthen your upper back and neck extension muscles and your hyoid muscles (located within your anterior neck, these muscles are your primary neck flexors), and stretch your sternocleidomastoid and sub-occipital muscles. Also, rectus abdominus muscle (the six pac abdominal muscle) over-development pulls your rib cage down and your shoulders and head forward. You may need to suspend your sit-ups and abdominal crunch exercises and increase your core muscle and lumbar extension muscle conditioning until proper front/back side muscular balance has been achieved. I recommend that you receive expert assessment and exercise program design for this project.

Misalignments of your upper cervical, lower cervical, thoracic spinal vertebra and rib cage must be corrected to remove mechanical limitations to your spinal motion, and remove the joint stresses that are maintaining your anterior head carriage. Resolving your spinal and rib cage joint misalignments greatly improve the nerve and muscle imbalances that promote your anterior head carriage. You may also need to address pelvis, knee and ankle misalignments that are contributing to all your upper body joint misalignments.

The professional expertise of the practitioner that you receive for diagnosing and treating your postural abnormalities, joint misalignments and muscular imbalances is critical. Solving anterior head carriage requires a scientific, objective, integrated, priority based, functional approach to eliminating the complex factors causing and contributing to this condition. Correcting your upper cervical and pelvis misalignments is the necessary starting point for all spinal and postural improvements.

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01792 830561 or 07717001331

Michael Jones Chiropractor G.C.C. no. 01935