Anterior Head Syndrome: Why Your Mother Told You to Stand Up Straight
-by Beth Dugger Brown, Troy, Tennessee
“Stand up straight!” Your mom said it. My mom said it. Were they right to say that you were going end up like Quasimodo? Well, yes and no.
The proper term for what will happen to you if you don’t stand up straight is anterior head carriage. What does that mean? In regular people-speak, it means that you carry your big melon head too far in front of your body. Besides the unattractive aspect of it, there is a very real health concern that can develop from terrible posture. Think of carrying an 11-pound bowling ball. If you were given the task of carrying that ball 24 hours a day, would you carry it close to your body or far out in front? Of course, you would carry it close to your body, because that makes the load easier to handle. It is the same with your head. The average human head weighs that much—11 pounds. Our heads are supposed to sit over our shoulders, not in front of them. Our ears and shoulders should line up on top of each other. Carrying the head out in front of the body, even by an inch, adds strain to the muscles that are tasked with keeping the head upright. The farther the head is from the body, the heavier it seems to be. That strain will cause such undesirable things as headaches and pain between the shoulder blades. Now that you’re thinking about it, you may realize that you have anterior head syndrome.
Unfortunately, most of us in the modern world are prone to this uncomfortable condition due to our love of technology. Think about how much time you spend looking down at a phone, a tablet, a laptop, a desktop, or something as age-old as reading a book. Looking down causes the shoulders to hunch forward and the neck to stick out in front of your body. It also causes curvature in the mid-back, or thoracic spine, also called kyphosis. That curving of the spine is where the “Quasimodo” hump originates. No one wants that, so what are we to do about it?
According to Dr. Ross Clark, Doctor of Chiropractic, the first step is to get your computer monitor slightly above eye level. Sometimes this requires the use of very thick text books stacked under the monitor. It’s a good use for those college books that you never sold back to the bookstore. You could also buy a raised platform that is specifically used for raising your monitor. Some of them are adjustable and some are not. Raising your screen that you look at for hours every day will reduce the strain on your neck.
Simple exercises can help. First, try a door frame stretch. Dr. Clark describes this as standing in a doorway and placing your forearms on either side of the frame. Then lean forward so that you feel the stretch across your chest. This helps to loosen those pectoralis muscles and enables you to keep your shoulders back in their proper position. You can also try some head retractions. When you’re sitting at your desk, move your head backwards without bending your neck. It will feel like you’re giving yourself a double chin. It will help to push your shoulders back and keep your head where it is supposed to be.
Try not to sit on your couch and use your laptop without some kind of elevated platform. The key really is to keep from looking down all day long. You may feel like you don’t do this very much, but if you take into account every time you look down to check your phone or read a report in addition to the time you spend on your computer, you probably look down much more than you realize.
If you are experiencing pain, tightness, soreness, or headaches do yourself a favor and get an appointment with your chiropractor. And, please, when your mother makes you read this, don’t roll your eyes at her. Just tell her that she really was right all these years!