Forward Head Posture and Low Back Pain

Posture 1

Did you know there is a connection between forward head posture and low back pain or even what is commonly called sciatica. We have been talking about this for almost 10 years here. An older study found that up to two inches of forward head posture can increase the load on the lumbar discs by 60%. A recent study, mentioned here, found that when we put our head into forward flexion to look at a smartphone we increase the load on the lumbar spine. This recent study noted that the increase in load on the lumbar spine was proportional to the amount of flexion, meaning look down more and you increase the load on the lumbar spine more. Since we can clearly see that forward head posture has an effect on the lumbar spine it is important to note there is a way to address this without the need for surgery.  If you want to understand how this is possible, pick up a bowling ball, that ball is easy to hold when it is close to your torso but now extend your arms to hold it out in front of you.  As you extend that ball, it’s weight stays the same, but you will have to work harder to hold it up the further you extend your arms. The same thing happens as the center of mass of our skull shifts forward on our shoulders, there is an increased load on our spine and our muscles become strained.

This paper just published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics by Egyptian researchers found that a program of exercises to reduce forward head posture can result in decreased low back pain and pain commonly referred to as sciatica. It is of note that I have discussed other papers published by these same authors before, they have been looking into posture, its relationship to the spine and spine related symptoms as well as means to correct poor posture to improve those symptoms. In this paper these authors took 154 adults with chronic disc related lumbar radiculopathy, and placed about half in a program of standard physiotherapy care and the other half in a program of care aimed at reducing their forward head posture. The authors measured their improvement 10 weeks post-treatment and two years post-treatment. At 10 weeks post-treatment there was an insignificant difference in pain and function but at 2 years there was a significant difference in pain and function. According to the authors, at two years post-treatment, the group that was treated to restore forward head posture maintained their level of improvement seen after their care ended but the other group showed worsening pain and functional outcome scores. Their findings indicate that by reducing forward head posture we can effectively treat chronic low back pain and sciatica or sciatica type pain.

A key component to our diagnosis is to measure your posture and the curves of your spine to understand why you developed the posture you are in. A key component to our care is working with you to restore your posture towards the published ideal normal values. We are uniquely educated in this type of care and are uniquely equipped in the office to achieve great results in reduction of pain and improvement of function and posture.

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Posted in Back Pain

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