Neck problems, neck spasms and general neck pain are common complaints in the orthopedic rehab world. One of the most common causes of these problems is forward head posture.
With the high prevalence of desk jobs, the influx of cell phone use, computer use and video gaming, as well as time spent relaxing in front of the TV, our posture certainly suffers more often than we realize. Over time, these repetitive tasks put us into a position called forward head posture, in which our heads and necks protrude forward into a flexed position.
Forward head posture is not only caused by cell phones and leaning over a computer all day. It can also be caused by age-related degeneration and muscular weakness. Over time, our bones can become more brittle and porous, leading to a condition known as osteoporosis. Weakened, fragile bones increase the risk for falls or broken bones. As the bones become more brittle, the spine compresses and begins to change shape, creating a stooped posture in the upper thoracic spine, in addition to forward head posture. The best treatment for age-related spinal degeneration and porous bones is weight-bearing exercise to slow bone loss and stimulate the growth of new bone.
Forward head posture causes strain on our neck muscles and can lead to headaches due to pain referring from those tight neck muscles. When the muscles at the base of the skull, called suboccipitals, become chronicallytight, trigger points can form, increasing tension in the already tightened musculature, thereby causing tension headaches. Trigger points occur when a muscle is so tight that a “knot” forms as a chemical neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine builds up along the muscle wall and inhibits the neurotransmitter’s signal to the brain that allows the muscle to relax. Therefore, the muscle continuously contracts in a vicious pain-spasm-pain cycle, leading to increased tension and exacerbated pain.
If you are experiencing neck pain of any kind, call TODAY to schedule an hour-long one-on-one evaluation with one of our orthopedic physical therapists.Through specific tests and measurements, they will create an individualized plan of care to combat your pain, increase your mobility and strength, and show you how to safely return to your daily activities while avoiding those added stresses that contribute to that “pain in the neck.”
Furthermore, each physical therapy plan of care includes targeted stretches for tight muscles and individualized weight-bearing and resistance strengthening exercises to reduce postural weakness and improve overall daily function.