Forward Head Posture and the Brain

Dr. Laura Piehl
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Have you heard about “text neck” or maybe “tech neck”? As a chiropractic office, we see people every day presenting with forward head posture and loss of the normal curve in their neck! We know why this happens, doesn’t it feel like most everything we do brings us into a forward posture? Personally, I look down to adjust all day, I stand and look down to do dishes at home, when I work on notes at my desk, I also find myself hunching forward at times. What many health providers have noted is the prevalence of this change in posture and research is showing how harmful it can be. 

What we know about the cervical (neck) spine is that it has an important role in providing proprioceptive input to the brain as well as information to the vestibular, visual and central nervous systems. Our brain is always aware of where our body is spatially - this is proprioception. The nerves of the neck help transmit the information needed to help control balance, spatial orientation, and coordination.

When we have forward head posture or when the neck is out of proper alignment, the information sent and received by the brain can become distorted. This can cause neck pain, tension headaches, tightness across the mid back, and if left uncorrected, can result in clumsiness, falls, or motion sickness. A recent study also found that loss of proper cervical alignment leads to exaggerated responses to stimuli and the sympathetic nervous system (our stress response). Yikes!

As a society, we know that phones are one of common culprits of encouraged forward head posture. When the head is in neutral position it should weigh between 10-12 lbs. At 15 degrees of neck flexion, the head weighs 27lbs and at 60 degrees forward, the head exerts 60 lbs of downward force. The sheer weight of continued forward head posture causes stress on the spine which then leads to early wear and tear and degeneration. Kids are not immune to this forward head posture and can be the hardest to correct because of increasing rates of screen-time. 

At Flourish Chiropractic, we serve many individuals across all generations who present with forward head posture and we love to watch how the body can adapt and change. Through specific x-rays to show how the spine moves we can identify exactly where the problem in the neck is. We use specific adjustments to realign the spine to increase correct communication from the neck to the brain and back to the body. We also equip our practice members with stretches and a specific form of traction to help reform the lost curve. This correction takes time and repetition and helps the symptoms of forward head posture, but more importantly helps avoid the consequences to the loss of structure. Ask us if you have any questions!

-Dr. Laura

Ibrahim M Moustafa, Ahmed Youssef, Amal Ahbouch, May Tamim, Deed E. Harrison (2020), “Is forward head posture relevant to autonomic nervous system function and cervical sensorimotor control? Cross sectional study, Gait and amp: Posture (2020), doi: retrieved 16 Jan 2020