How many times were you told to sit up straight?
Teachers, parents, and other family members all seemed to be obsessed with your posture growing up and if you’re like most people, you probably didn’t understand why. In fact, even all those well-meaning adults couldn’t give you a good (in your child-like opinion) reason why you were supposed to keep your shoulders back and your chin up.
Even now, you likely feel more comfortable slouching slightly. In a world of computers, video games, long-haul driving, and more activities where you’re seated for long periods of time, your head position seems to naturally move forward to better suit the activities you’re doing.
But Forward Head Posture (FHP) can have serious impacts on your health
It’s not just an urban legend your parents told you to make you sit up straight. FHP creates constant strain on your muscles, spine, and even your jaw.
Think of your typical bag of groceries. It’s probably not too heavy when you carry it by your side using the handles. Or, if the handles have broken, maybe you’re holding it against your chest as you carry it from the car to your kitchen.
But imagine you need to hold out that bag of groceries away from your body. Once your arms are extended out, it doesn’t matter if you’re holding it by the handle or not: your arms are going to start getting tired pretty quickly.
When you slouch, your head is out of line with your neck and spine. That means your muscles are going to get tired faster, like if you’re holding the groceries away from your body. Just like your arms will eventually begin to get tired and the height of the grocery bag will drop, your neck and spine begin to get tired and weak, making it harder for you to stand up straight.
So how does bad posture affect your health?
The more you slouch, the faster your spine becomes bent out of shape because your neck and shoulders are carrying extra weight that they shouldn’t have to carry, damaging and weakening the muscles. Over time, it can become permanent, which flattens the normal neck curve and results in things like:
- Disc compression
- Disc fusion
- Early arthritis
- Muscle spasms and headaches
- Jaw pain
You might think that you’ve always sat a certain way and it’s never caused problems before. But much like driving a car and never changing the oil, everything will seem fine until one day, it’s not. If you stress your body long enough, one day it is going to “talk back” to you, and not always nicely.
Why does slouching cause jaw pain?
To paraphrase an old song you probably heard as a child, the jaw bone is connected to the neck bone, and the neck bone is connected to the… well, the spine.
Head position influences the way your teeth come together. If you tilt your head back and very lightly touch your teeth together, you’ll notice that only your back teeth touch. And if you bend way forward and repeat the same exercise, only your front teeth will touch.
So as your head moves, the muscles in your neck get tight and tend to pull the jaw down and back. This causes your jaw to be out of line and over time, causes painful spasms, headaches, and bite problems.
A lot of people tend to “explain away” muscle pain by saying they’ve worked too hard in the yard, pulled a muscle while exercising, or are simply getting older. But wouldn’t it be nice to address the root cause so you don’t have to live with pain and headaches anymore?
How can you correct your posture and fix your jaw and muscle pain?
It’s a complicated issue to solve, but it is treatable. While you can get pain medication to help manage the headaches and muscles spasms, this won’t fix the root cause. The best way to address FHP involves working with a team of medical entities. This might include:
Dr. Andrea Stevens
- A specially trained massage therapist
- Physical therapists
and her team in Kanata, Ontario can help treat your headache and neck pain in conjunction with other medical entities. If you have questions or think you may have FHP, book a consultation today.