Think of your head being a bowling ball. It doesn’t weigh that much when it is balanced on the neck and shoulders, but if it is put forward, it starts doubling in weight.
This particular bad posture is called forward head posture and, unfortunately, it is extremely common. This constant strain creates problems for muscles, spine and even the teeth and jaw.
Why does this affect my muscles?
An overworked muscle is going to fatigue over time. The more stress on a muscle, the faster it will fatigue. An example is taking a heavy weight and holding it to your chest versus holding it at arm’s length. The muscles are going to give out a lot faster when the ball is away from the body.
When you see the pictures of African and Indian women carrying heavy weights, you see necks and backs with aligned posture. This position evenly distributes the weight and gives the muscles more leverage and balance.
In the world of computers, electronic games, long-haul drives, etc., head position is more forward. Like the bowling ball analogy, the muscles are going to be overworked and out of balance. It’s no wonder that head, neck and back pain are the No. 1 reason people visit a doctor or chiropractor.
How is my spine affected?
What happens to the spine in FHP is that it is bent out of shape and is being remodeled over time. This remodeling can become permanent and consists of flattening the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, disc fusion and early arthritis.
The spine is the infrastructure of the body. When it is out of balance, it causes a strain on muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood supplies, etc. With FHP, the neck and shoulders have to carry extra weight. This constant isometric contraction causes neck muscles to loose blood and get damaged and also causes fatigue, strain, pain, burning and fibromyalgia.
This abnormal position is also responsible for many tension headaches at the base of the neck, which often radiate into the temples and behind the eyes. The pain is usually treated with over-the-counter pain medication without understanding the cause.
What does this have to do with my teeth/jaw?
Head position influences the way the teeth come together. If you tilt you head way back and very lightly touch your teeth together, only the back teeth touch. If you bend way forward, only the front touch, and the same with tilting the head left or right.
You can visualize as the head moves forward, the muscles in the front of the neck get tight and tend to pull the jaw down and back. We tend to think of the jaw and teeth as their own entity, but now, you can see that the jaw bone is connected to the neck bone and the neck bone is connected … as the old song says.
People with FHP tend to have painful spasms in the muscles of the head and neck. These spasms disguise themselves as severe headaches or neck aches.
We usually “blow off” muscle pain by saying we’ve worked too hard in the yard, pulled a muscle golfing, exercising, lifting, getting older, etc. These particular muscle pains I’ve described are not because of any kind of physical activity, but because of posture imbalance.
But I’ve always been “like this”…
It is kind of like oil in your car. You can drive the car without changing the oil, and everything seems just fine until one day, the car freezes up, and you wonder what happened. If you stress the body long enough, one day it is going to talk back to you, and not always nicely.
This is a complicated issue to solve, and it involves several medical entities such as a specially-trained massage therapist, physical therapists, chiropractors and dentists. Looking in the mirror and feeling for painful spasms of the head and neck will give you a good clue if you have a potential problem. Your medical doctor might just prescribe you some pain pills…but you know that doesn’t solve the problem. Why not seek out the help of an allied health professional listed above? Wouldn’t it be nice to feel good again?
Andrea Stevens is a cosmetic and family dentist in practice in Kanata, Ontario. She also successfully treats many patients with headaches and neck pain, often in conjunction with chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists. If you have dental questions, you can call her at 613-271-7091 or visit her at kanatacosmeticdentist.com Please also feel free to leave comments or questions below, and Dr. Stevens will be happy to answer!