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Forward Head Posture Symptoms

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
Forward Head Posture Symptoms
Maintaining a forward head posture can result in numerous musculoskeletal complaints. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

According to Dr. Adalbert I. Kapandji, an orthopedic surgeon and the author of "Physiology of the Joints, Volume Three," for every inch your head is craned forward, 10 lbs. of effective weight is added. The additional force on your upper back and neck tissues caused by a forward head position—anterior head carriage—places significant stain on your muscles, joints, ligaments and nerves, and can result in the onset of muscle tension headaches and other musculoskeletal problems.

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Muscle Tension Headaches

In an April 29, 2009 "National Post" article by Rob Williams, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based kinesiologist and posture specialist, he states that tight levator scapulae muscles, which connect your neck to your shoulder blades, frequently contribute to tension headaches. With anterior head carriage, the muscle tone of your levator scaplae muscles, along with your upper trapezius and suboccipital muscles, increases, and "trigger points" —hyperirritable nodules within a band of muscle—can form and produce local and referred pain. The increased tone of your suboccipital muscles puts pressure on your suboccipital nerves, which can produce headaches originating at the base of your skull. Increased pressure on your suboccipital nerves also can imitate sinus headaches. Muscle tension headaches or tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache disorder, according to the World Health Organization.

Loss of Lung Vital Capacity

According to Dr. Rene Cailliet, an emeritus professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the author of numerous books on musculoskeletal medicine, anterior head carriage can add up to 30 pounds of leverage on your cervical spine, which can pull your spine out of alignment. Dr. Cailliet states that anterior head carriage can lead to the loss of 30 percent of your lung's vital capacity (the total amount of air you can expel from your lungs after a maximum inspiration). Anterior head carriage-related loss of vital capacity is due to your loss of cervical lordosis or neck curvature, which negates the action of your hyoid muscles, especially your inferior hyoid muscle, which is responsible for elevating your first rib during a deep breath in. Postural exercises are an effective way to restore your normal neck curvature and regain your lung vital capacity.

Neck Pain or Discomfort

Neck pain or discomfort is a common musculoskeletal complaint by those with mild, moderate or marked anterior head carriage. According to a 2002 study published in the "Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation," there was a significant association between neck pain and anterior head carriage during computer processing. The study, conducted by researchers in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, found that among those who reported neck pain during computer use, 60.5 percent had a forward head posture. According to Life Chiropractic College West, the tight neck muscles found in those with anterior head carriage are often associated with Upper Cross Syndrome, a condition of your musculoskeletal system in which certain muscles of your upper torso are tight and overactive while others are weak or inhibited. Postural exercises and stretching, along with other practitioner-rendered manual therapies, can help reduce your anterior head carriage-associated neck pain and restore your structural fitness.

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