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Published by Terra Rosa

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Published by: Terra Rosa on Apr 03, 2011
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42 Pound Head
It’s not uncommon to have clients walk intoyour ofce sporting a 12 pound head that’s mi-grated three inches forward of their shoulders.You know prior to palpation that their cervi-cal and capital extensors (semispinalis, splenii,longissimus and upper traps) are in a losing battleattempting to isometrically restrain 42 poundsagainst the unrelenting force of gravity
(Fig 1)
.The cervical and thoracic myofascia reallytake a beating from our society’s addiction toprolonged sitting. It’s not so bad in the earlystages when muscles are only ring at about 4%of their maximum voluntary contraction ability.
“For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase theweight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” 
Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol. 3
But, as Sato and fellow researchers found, anegative metabolic state, i.e., reduced blood andlymph ow, triggers fatigue and neck pain whenthis posture is maintained for over 10 minutes.1. Ligamentous laxity (creep) has also been linkedto excessive spinal exion from gravitationalexposure.2. Since ligaments are responsible for protectingintervertebral discs and facet joints, any disrup-tion in integrity predisposes the neck to futureinjury. Once a tissue is strained, it has difcultyreturning to its original length.
Fig. 1 -
The 42 Pound Head
Head in forward posture can add up to thirtypounds of abnormal leverage on the cervicalspine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment.Forward head posture (FHP) may result inthe loss of 30% of vital lung capacity. Thesebreath-related effects are primarily due to theloss of the cervical lordosis which blocks theaction of the hyoid muscles, especially theinferior hyoid responsible for helping lift therst rib during inhalation.
The 42 Pound Head 83
Proper rib lifting action by the hyoids andanterior scalenes is essential for completeaeration of the lungs
(Fig 2)
The entire gastrointestinal system(particularly the large intestine) may becomeagitated from FHP resulting in sluggish bowelperistaltic function and evacuation.
Cailliet also states:
“Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shouldersand pelvis. All are important, but, head positiontakes precedence over all others. The body fol-lows the head. Therefore, the entire body is best aligned by rst restoring proper functional align-ment to the head”.
Of course, the effects of poor posture go far beyond just looking awkward. In fact, the Janu-ary, 2004 issue of the American Journal of PainManagement reported on the relationship of poor posture and chronic pain conditions including lowback pain, neck related headaches, and stress-related illnesses. “The extra pressure imposed onthe neck from poor posture attens the normalcervical curve resulting in abnormal strain onmuscles, ligaments, fascia and bones.
Research presented at the 2009 Annual Inter-national Conference of the IEEE EMBS stated:
“Over time poor posture results in pain, muscleaches, tension and headache and can lead tolong term complications such as osteoarthritis.Forward head carriage may promote accelerated aging of intervertebral joints resulting in degen-erative joint disease.”
(Fig 3)
It appears posture impacts and modulates allbodily functions from breathing to hormonalproduction. Spinal pain, headache, mood, bloodpressure, pulse and lung capacity are among themany conditions inuenced by faulty posture.
Rene Cailliet M.D., formerdirector of the departmentof physical medicineand rehabilitation at theUniversity of SouthernCalifornia wrote:
Fig. 2 - Hyoids & Anterior Scalenes
Proprioceptive signals from the rst 4 cervi-cal vertebrae are a major source of stimuli for regulating the body’s pain-controlling chemicals(endorphins). FHP dramatically reduces endor-phin production by limiting the cervical spine’srange of motion. Inadequate endorphin productionup-regulates the central nervous system causingnon-painful sensations to be experienced as pain.Figure 4 shows a couple of good articular stretch-ing techniques (AST) for restoring joint-play toxated upper cervical facet joints.
Dr. Alf Breig, a Swedish neuro-surgeon and Nobel Prize recipi-ent coined the termed ‘adverseneural tension’ to describe themechanism by which loss of nor-mal cervical lordotic curvecreates dysfunction and disease.
Through cadaver studies, Dr.Breig demonstrated that neck exion could stretchthe spinal cord 5-7 cm causing tensioning of themeninges. Once the ligaments have been stretchedand strained from years of forward head carriage,any trauma such as whiplash, can damage thespinal cord at its rm attachments at C2-3 and theforamen magnum.
(Fig 5)
84 The 42 Pound Head
“90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain isgenerated by the movement of t he spine” 
Dr. Roger Sperry,(Nobel Prize Recipient forBrain Research)
Additionally, Dr Roger Sperrydemonstrated that 90% of the brain’s energy out-put is used in relating the physical body to gravity.Only 10% has to do with thinking, metabolism,and healing. Consequently, a FHP will cause thebrain to rob energy from thinking, metabolism,and immune function to deal with abnormal grav-ity/posture relationships and processing.The March 2000 Mayo Clinic Health Letter expounded on Sperry’s ndings by reporting thatprolonged FHP also leads to “myospasm, discherniations, arthritis and pinched nerves.” Degen-erative neck pain goes hand-in-hand with balanceproblems especially in the elderly. Sensitive cervi-cal spine mechanoreceptors govern the body’sability to balance and must be perfectly coordinat-ed with the inner ear’s vestibular balance systemto stabilize equilibrium in both static posture andgait. Keeping the eyes looking forward is a basiclife-preserving reex, and as such, dominatesnearly all other postural considerations.
Fig. 4 -
Techniquesto restore joint playto xaed uppercervical facet joints
Fig. 3 - Degenerative joint disease

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