We see poor posture all the time, especially in physical therapy. Gravity, staring at our computer screens, and driving are just a few of the things pulling our heads into a forward posture. Forward Head Posture (FHP), also called “Scholar’s Neck” can cause a whole host of problems and if not corrected can lead to further difficulties with age.
Associated with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, FHP is the root of these possible negative side effects:
- Tingling and numbness in the arms
- Burning pain and/or radiating between the shoulder blades
Headaches are common side effect of FHP. Combination Therapy combines 2
top treatment modalities in one unit.
Forward Head Posture is a muscle imbalance, with the need for the lower cervical flexors and upper cervical extensors needing to be stretched, while at the same time the lower cervical extensors and upper cervical flexors need to be strengthened. Put simply, patients with FHP need help to be able to move the head laterally into neutral.
Physical therapy can help FHP on multiple levels. There are many different ways to approach treatment, utilizing different modalities to address negative side effects of FHP.
Physical Therapy Modalities Appropriate for Treating Forward Head Posture
- Therapeutic exercise: These exercises will address stretching and strengthening the appropriate muscles to help bring the head and neck into neutral alignment. For example, chin tucks where the patient tries to move the head laterally back help strengthen and stretch the stabilizing muscles of the head.
- Ultrasound Therapy: Research shows ultrasound therapy helps to decrease pain while increasing muscular function. The sound waves of ultrasound are converted into heat within the deep tissues, which opens the blood vessels and allows more oxygen to be delivered thereby enhancing circulation to the muscles.
- Electrical Stimulation: Electrical treatments can provide pain relief caused by PHP by helping to relax muscles that are tight or in spasm. Electrical Stimulation works by providing stimulation that the body is able to react differently to rather than as it reacts to pain and by making the muscle contract which helps in breaking up the spasm cycle.
- Cold & Heat Therapy: Cold therapy slows circulation, helping to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain, while heat therapy increases flexibility and range of motion, helping loosen tight muscles in order to help them glide laterally into neutral.
- Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT): Forward Head Posture is thought to be one of the main causes of Cervicogenic headaches. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy showed that LLLT reduces pain caused with FHP and any associated cervicogenic headache immediately after treatment.
Most adults can relate to being told to “sit up straight” as they were growing up. Unfortunately, our lifestyle trends along with gravity don’t help our posture remain in neutral. Forward Head Posture is really a prevalent problem which can lead to further difficulties as patient’s age. The key is treating the incidence of FHP early and teaching appropriate tools for patients to be able to keep their neck and head in neutral alignment throughout their day-to-day activities.
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