Words from Dr. Behr
Early in life the foundation for a normal spine is created. The normal spine must develop proper curves from front to back in order to achieve full stability and flexibility. In the womb the infant’s spine is in a “C” configuration. As the infant develops enough strength to elevate the head a forward curve is developed in the neck. Soon after, crawling on all fours allows for another forward curve to develop in the lower spine. These curves are essential for a stable, healthy and resilient spine. Parents are encouraged to allow infants plenty of time on their stomachs and on all fours. Crawling is a normal and valuable exercise in a child’s healthy development. The infant needs to develop the spinal muscles and prepare the spinal curves for future upright posture. Once we are upright our spinal curves and good posture act like springs, which help us to adapt to the forces of gravity and weight bearing activities.
Many believe the spine is an inflexible rod. In fact, it is quite flexible. Structurally strong, it impacts the dynamic ability of the human body. It not only supports the body and all of its organs, it also protects the sensitive and delicate spinal cord and spinal nerves. Every activity, even breathing, demands movement of the spine. The spine gives the human structure both strength and agility. Humans are classified as being bi-ped (stands erect on two legs). While this gives us some great advantages of agility, mobility, and leverage, unfortunately, it also allows for structural stress. The body must adapt to the continual stress of gravity in order to maintain its balance.
The most obvious benefit of good posture is efficiency and comfort. Yet, because of the inter-relationship of the structural (bone) and functional (organ) systems of the body, posture is also a factor, which can determine health. Poor posture compromises the movement of the rib cage and reduces the ability of the lungs to function at maximum efficiency. This inhibits proper flow of oxygen to the tissues and elimination of carbon dioxide from the tissues. Poor posture also inhibits proper flow of the spinal nerves and therefore decreases well-being. Poor posture contributes to shallow breathing, faulty digestion, poor elimination, poor circulation, lack of energy and reduced coordination.
One of the most common and preventable postural problems which has become an epidemic is called Forward Head Posture (FHP). We live in a forward facing world. The repetitive positions we assume while using computers, watching television, playing video games, doing desk work and even wearing a backpack have forced the human body to adapt to a posture where the head is in front of the shoulders. Just like a gymnast can train the body through repeated motions during practice, it is the repetition of forward head movements combined with poor posture that causes the body to adapt to a forward head posture. Ideally, the head should sit directly on the neck and shoulders, like a golf ball sits on a tee. The weight of the head is more like a bowling ball than a golf ball, and the neck is more like a flexible fishing reel than a stiff tee, so holding the head forward, out of alignment, puts an extraordinary strain on your neck and upper back muscles.
The average head weighs about 10 pounds. If the head sits in proper alignment the load of its weight on the neck bones and discs and muscles is exactly 10 pounds. If the head is translated forward, that load increases by 10 pounds for every inch. Imagine a 30 pound bowling ball on top of a flexible stick! It is no wonder so many people present with stiff necks, headaches, shoulder, arm and wrist (carpal tunnel) problems. With this abnormal posture the neck and shoulders must` carry excess weight all day and the spinal tissues deform. The normal curve in the neck flattens, the discs get compressed and arthritis develops as the joints degenerate.
FHP can be improved through chiropractic correction of spinal misalignments and the following exercises and postural corrections:
a Place your computer monitor so the top third of the screen is even with your eyes and the screen is 18”-24” from your face.
a Always use a back support pillow when sitting (even driving). Re-establishing a proper forward curve in the lower back will naturally move the head and neck back over the shoulders.
a Every half hour force yourself to sit up straight. With your neck in a neutral position (looking straight ahead) pull your neck and head back over the shoulders. (Many of you have heard me refer to this as the reverse funky chicken - like the dance). Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 15-20 times. Please note that you must start with your head neutral. Do not start by jutting your head forward, and when you release, go to neutral and not forward.
a Lay face down on the floor and extend your head and shoulders up while pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of 3 and repeat 15 times.
a Do not cradle the phone with your shoulder. If you regularly need to speak on the phone while using your hands I urge you to use a headset. (Research shows that repetitive cradling of the phone significantly increases the possibility of having a stroke.)
a Do not sleep on your stomach. This is one of the single worst habits that can damage your spine. Proper sleep posture includes lying on either side or your back. Either way one pillow should be used to support the head and neck.
Your posture affects how you see yourself and how others see you. It reflects your personality, confidence, attitude and your health. There is a direct relationship between how you stand, sit and walk, and how you feel. The human body, like a machine, is subject to balance, rhythm, timing and coordinated action of all its components. Proper posture allows the body to function more efficiently. Chiropractic specializes in the evaluation of body mechanics. Treatment focuses on the structural, muscular and neurological components of the body. Correction of faulty mechanics, and maintaining sound structure, insures a healthier today and future.