"Getting Slower, Shorter… And Sicker"
The Downside of the Forward Head
Hello, my friends.
Two elderly ladies were cruising downtown one morning when their car ran through a red light.The lady in the passenger seat was concerned, but said nothing.At the next intersection, they again rolled on through without stopping.Finally, when it happened a third consecutive time, she anxiously asked her friend, "Why are you running those red lights!?" to which the other lady exclaimed, "Oh, my!Am I driving?"
Sometimes, when I'm going down a Washington city street behind a "cottonhead" who's doing about 10 mph in a 35 mph zone, I have to remind myself of a conclusion I reached when I first moved back to the area:the reason we have small towns is so old people will have a place to drive.
Think about it.You never see old people driving in the big city.My theory is that it's because they've already all been run over.
Recently, I drove up to Odon on a lunch hour and had yet another profound revelation:the smaller the town, the slower the people.In Odon, it seems like everybody is driving 10 mph, and if two or three cars reach an intersection at the same time, nobody wants to go first.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining.Personally, I think I was born in the wrong century.In a world that seems to be spiraling out of control, where change is not only constant, but accelerating, I only have one speed - slow.If you try to hurry me up, I just dig in my heels.And quick decisions are definitely a foreign concept for me.
I was riding a stationary bike in the window of the local YMCA last Sunday afternoon, pedaling as hard as I could and getting nowhere (an average day for me), when I had an alarming thought - if I'm already this slow at only 54 years old, what will I be like at 74?I'll probably have to speed up to stop.
Occasionally, when I see one of those 10 mph vehicles tooling about town, my initial reaction is, "Oh No!There's no DRIVER in that car!"A closer inspection of the situation, however, inevitably reveals the following:there is, in fact, someone driving the car, and it is, as usual, one of those older folks I talked about above.Unfortunately, in those particular cases, the aging process has left the person not only slower, but shorter.
I frequently see senior patients in my office who claim to have lost several inches in height over the course of their lifetime, and based on what I know about the spine, I believe them.They are victims of what's known in my profession as "Forward Head Posture," a condition that begins much earlier in life, almost imperceptibly at first, and leads to a chain of events that can impact the person's health in very significant ways.
The human head weighs about 10 pounds, but for every inch that it's displaced forward, the net effect of that weight doubles.It's like the difference between holding a bowling ball up against your chest and holding it straight out in front of you - it feels like it weighs a lot more when you hold it away from your body.But that's not all.Since a Forward Head Posture puts considerably more stress on the spine and nervous system, some possible and not uncommon additional effects, based on published medical research, are:
- head, neck, shoulder, arm pain
- back, hip, leg, foot pain
- depression/mood problems
- decreased breathing/lung capacity
- heart/circulation problems
- altered hormones or enzymes
- high/low blood pressure
- intestinal/bowel/constipation problems
- hemorrhoids/varicose veins
- altered sensation
- disturbed immune function
- overall poor health and quality of life
- a shortened life span
Correcting the Cause
Although Forward Head Posture is most evident in the elderly, it's actually an almost universal problem - I see it in the majority of my new patients to some degree when I observe them from the side (the "ear hole" should line up directly over the shoulder, and in most people it doesn't).They don't know they have the problem because they can't see themselves from the side, and it can take many years before it produces any obvious symptoms or diseases.
Forward Head Posture doesn't happen by chance - it's the direct result of specific biomechanical events, and there are specific steps that can be taken to "fight back."The first is to correct the "initiating event," which is a loss of normal motion at the base of the skull, and is the underlying cause of the problem.This can only be accomplished through specific chiropractic adjustments.
The second step is to get the patient actively involved with spinal rehabilitative procedures that are designed to re-program the body's innate ability to hold itself upright (the "righting reflexes"), utilizing a set of head, shoulder and hip weights that the patient wears for 20 minutes, twice daily.
The Worthwhile Result
Most patients come to me in moments of crisis, seeking a quick solution to an immediate problem, which is fine.I'm more than happy to oblige, if I can.But what if their spines could actually be remodeled?What if we could prevent, arrest, or even reverse some of the conditions in the list above?Wouldn't it be worth the time?The money?The work?
I think it is.That's my mission as a chiropractor.Besides… none of us knows how long we're going to live, or what path our lives may take, but if we should happen to hang around long enough to be called a "cottonhead," and go for a Sunday drive… it might be nice to know who's behind the wheel.
Wishing you health, happiness and peace,
Dr. Frank Bowling