I can be pretty sure you do not think of how your posture affects your lung production, and certainly not your mortality. A study done at Division of Geriatrics, Department of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, has shown that older persons with hyperkyphotic posture had a 1.44 greater rate of mortality.
You may be wondering what hyperkyphotic posture is? The picture below describes the excess rounded curve of hyperkyphotic posture. The questions you may be asking yourself are:
“Why does a hyperkyphotic posture reduce lung production and life expectancy”?
“Am I going to be like this”?
“How did people get this way”?
“If I am this way, how do I improve”?
According to Kapandji (Physiology of the Joints, Volume III), for every inch your head moves forwards, it gains 10 pounds in weight, because the muscles in your upper back and neck have to work that much harder to keep the head (chin) from dropping onto your chest. This also forces the muscles at the base of your skull (they raise the chin) to remain in constant contraction, putting pressure on the nerves that exit from this area and go to your brain. This nerve compression may cause headaches at the base of the skull, sinus pain, as well as neck and shoulder pain.
Dr.Rene Cailliet, former director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California states:
“Head in forward posture can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment. Forward head posture (FHP) may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity. These breath-related effects are primarily due to the loss of the cervical lordosis, which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid responsible for helping lift the first rib during inhalation.” (1)
As forward head posture decreases lung capacity, it affects the body from effectively oxygenating cells. This can lead to asthmatic conditions, blood vessel problems, and heart disease. The oxygen deficit can affect the entire gastrointestinal system, leading to altered nutrient absorption and peristaltic activity. Lowered oxygen states also decrease endorphin production turning the perception of non-painful sensation into pain experiences. (2)
What are the main physical stresses associated with forward head posture? In today’s society, the chief culprits are:
-excessive and heads-down use of computers, laptops, tablets, Smartphone
-excessive playing of video games
-heavy backpacks worn by students and heavy shoulder bags worn by adults
Persistent forward head posture, or hyperkyphotic posture puts compressive loads upon the upper thoracic vertebra, and is also associated with the development of Upper Thoracic Hump, which can devolve into Dowager Hump when the vertebra develop compression fractures (anterior wedging). A study done at UCLA, Department of Medicine, found this hyperkyphotic posture was associated with a 1.44 greater rate of mortality. (3)
As a practitioner, I commonly observe two inches of anterior head placement in new patients. Is it surprising that your neck and shoulders hurt when you had a 20-pound watermelon hanging around your neck? That’s what forward head posture can do to you. Left uncorrected, the subluxations that are associated with forward head posture can continue to have a devastating effect on your health. Headaches, sinus issues, neck and shoulder pain, breathing problems, and a reduction in life expectancy.
Take your health into your own hands. If you are currently receiving chiropractic care, congratulations! If you are not, what are you waiting for? Lastly, if someone you know and care for is being described in the article above, please let them know that it is critical that they get evaluated for the devastating effects of forward head posture.
- Cailliet R, Gross L, Rejuvenation Strategy. New York, Doubleday and Co. 1987
- J Am Geriatr Soc 2004 (Oct); 52 (10): 1662—1667