“For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Vol 3.
Sitting all day at your desk, year after year, with your head propped forward looking down at your screen, I liken to propping a bowling ball on a block of cheddar cheese. The whole thing eventually collapses in an ugly mess. Kapandji demonstrated the damaging effects of bad postural health in his famous study, which depicts that for every inch of forward head posture (from the centre of gravity), it increases the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.
So for every inch your head angles forward you are loading your neck and upper back joints by an additional 10 pounds to simply hold your head up. To illustrate Kapandji’s findings and to help my clients better grasp the detrimental impact poor posture has on their neck and their health, I created this poster you will have seen on our clinic walls.
Perfect, Not Great, Pretty Bad and Big trouble are four Vitality Chiropractic clients different by age, symptoms and their stories but alike under the banner of ‘sedentary 38-40 hour a week Office Worker’.
Each x-ray image has been measured in imperial (in keeping with the original study) with the ‘weight of the head on the spine’ measurements converted to metric for us Aussie’s. Read each story and find out which image could potentially be you. Whilst the Not Great office neck can be reversed back to Perfect, once you slide into Pretty bad and your head starts to weigh in at 20 kilograms the path to the 30 kilogram Head and a irreversible Big Trouble potentially awaits you in retirement. Which head are you?
Mr Perfect (21), an engineer student awoke with acute neck pain. His neck was locked up and could only turn in one direction. The pain was a 10 /10, it came on fast and the spasm in the muscles was all one sided. His head was locked over to one side and on the day of examination and severe pain was elicited when he tried to move in any direction. The x-rays revealed he was suffering acute wry neck with no underlying damage.
- A) Posture: Perfect posture, the ear lines up with the middle of the shoulder. A perfect neck curve. This person holds themselves tall, has a lovely long neck with defined collar bones.
- B) Anatomy:
- text book perfect
- beautiful neck curve
- perfectly aligned vertebra
- healthy discs
- C) Test for perfect Posture: Stand flat against a wall, the back of your shoulders and your head will rest comfortably on the wall.
Miss Not Great (25), accountant became acutely aware of what she described as an unsightly hump at the base of her neck (if you look closely enough you can see it on the x-rays). She would constantly ‘crack’ her own neck every 20 minutes for ‘relief’. Tension headaches at 3pm, settled with Panadol. She increasingly found that her head felt heavy and she looked forward to sitting on the couch of an evening to rest her neck and shoulders.
- A) Posture: Not Great, the head has now moved forwards from the centre of gravity line (COG) ~5 cm .
- B) Anatomy:
- Grade I osteoarthritic degeneration
- Full loss of the normal neck curve
- Soft tissue lump at the base of the neck
- Cervical discs are still healthy and maintained
- C) Test for a not Great neck: Stand flat against a wall, the back of your head will sit ~3 fingers off the wall.
Ms Pretty Bad (47), dental clinic manager came to Vitality Chiropractic for low back pain. She recalled her parents always told her to stand up straight, but she always found it hard and continued to just slouch. She tried yoga but found it too embarrassing due to poor flexibility so gave up. Over the past 5 years she noted that her neck makes noises when it turns and is very limited in its range. She finds checking the blind spot driving increasingly difficult. She has also noticed it becoming harder to do her bra up at the back and its increasing uncomfortable to sleep on her back at night, preferring to be on the stomach.
- A) Posture: Pretty bad, the head has moved forwards 7.62 cm from the COG line.
- B) Anatomy:
- Grade II- III osteoarthritic degeneration
- Narrowing the discs on multiple levels in the neck and upper back
- Bone spurs on the anterior margins of the vertebrae
- Early wedging of thoracic vertebrae and signs of collapse due to 19 kg anterior loading of the head
- C) Test for a pretty bad neck: Stand flat against a wall, the middle of your back and your shoulder blades will prevent your and head from touching the wall. Your head will sit nearly 4 fingers off the wall.
Ms Big Trouble (63), 40-year office worker now changed to a role as a carer due to her inability to continue her office role due to neck and back pain. Presented to Vitality Chiropractic due to the very recent onset of migraines. She was becomingly increasingly aware of the size of her shoulder muscles and a shrinking neck. She stated she had unconsciously avoided wearing t- shirts and opted for large collared tops her whole life. He arms had become increasingly weak and suffered bursitis and regular shoulder problems. She now struggled to hang out washing on the line or perform normal daily activities. She is never without back, neck or shoulder pains.
- A) Posture: Big Trouble , the head has moved forwards ~13 cm from the COG line.
- B) Anatomy:
- Grade III- IV osteoarthritic degeneration
- Severe wedging of the vertebral discs
- Severe wedging of vertebrae and collapse due to 29 kg anterior loading of the head
- Bridging bone spurs on the anterior margins of the vertebrae
- Forward set shoulders
- Bursitis and shoulder capsule damage
- Global loss of neck and spinal movement
- Pins and needles into both hands down both arms
- C) Test for Big Trouble: You are unable to stand flat with any part of your back flat up against a wall, the back hump touches the wall only.
Office neck syndrome will ruin your posture and your health. Take time to stretch , make time to move, and perfect your seated posture before it’s too late.