The head is a large and heavy part of a person. In a child, the head can account for 1/4 of their height. In the adult, the head weighs 10-14 pounds and this load has to be balanced by the strength of the neck muscles. In normal upright posture, there is a forward curve to the neck, and this curve provides the perfect balance between strength and mobility. Unfortunately this curve can be disrupted by whiplash and other traumas that damage the delicate ligaments and disks. This results in a straight or “military” neck.
When a person bends their head forward to read or type, the neck begins to straighten and the weight of the head must be countered by the pull of the muscles at the back of the neck. If the person does this all day, because they work at a computer for example, then the muscles never get a break. Knots, tightness or spasm of the muscles will increase and cause a neck ache. Because the muscles pull at the base of the head, the person may feel a tightness or pain around the head. These are the symptoms of what is called a tension-type headache.
Usually the shoulder muscles are also involved and tight. Over time this forward head posture can become more permanent and a “round back” may also develop. More than just bad appearance, poor posture causes the spinal cord and nerves to become stretched resulting in pain. Poor posture may also cause the spine to prematurely deteriorate, called degeneration, which results in thin disks.
Forward head posture and bad neck curves can be diagnosed by x-ray and by observing the patient from the side. If forward head posture is detected, it usually means there is some stretch to the ligaments.
The answer cannot be found in a bottle of pain pills. Although they can block pain, the consequences are quite severe. First, they mask the cause of the symptoms and lead the patient away from the actual cause of the head pain. In addition, pain pills can cause stomach bleeding and kidney damage when taken for long periods of time.
There are other causes for tension-type headaches and the ‘heavy” feeling of the head. Certain rare diseases and high blood pressure can also make the head hurt. This is why it is important to have the cause of your problem properly diagnosed. Chiropractic doctors have extensively studied both spinal problems that cause headaches, as well as the more rare diseases, which occasionally cause the same symptoms.