Straight Teeth Talk: Head pain due to posture
By Mac Lee
Sept. 3, 2013 at 4:03 a.m.
Think of your head being a bowling ball. It doesn't weigh that much when it is balanced on the neck and shoulders, but if it is put forward, it starts doubling in weight.
This particular bad posture is called forward head posture and, unfortunately, it is extremely common. This constant strain creates problems for muscles, spine and even the teeth and jaw.
An overworked muscle is going to fatigue over time. The more stress on a muscle, the faster it will fatigue. An example is taking a heavy weight and holding it to your chest versus holding it at arm's length. The muscles are going to give out a lot faster when the ball is away from the body.
When you see the pictures of African and Indian women carrying heavy weights, you see necks and backs with aligned posture. This position evenly distributes the weight and gives the muscles more leverage and balance.
In the world of computers, electronic games, long-haul drives, etc., head position is more forward. Like the bowling ball analogy, the muscles are going to be overworked and out of balance. It's no wonder that head, neck and back pain are the No. 1 reason people visit a doctor or chiropractor.
What happens to the spine in FHP is that it is bent out of shape and is being remodeled over time. This remodeling can become permanent and consists of flattening the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, disc fusion and early arthritis.
The spine is the infrastructure of the body. When it is out of balance, it causes a strain on muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood supplies, etc. With FHP, the neck and shoulders have to carry extra weight. This constant isometric contraction causes neck muscles to loose blood and get damaged and also causes fatigue, strain, pain, burning and fibromyalgia.
This abnormal position is also responsible for many tension headaches at the base of the neck, which often radiate into the temples and behind the eyes. The pain is usually treated with over-the-counter pain medication without understanding the cause.
Head position influences the way the teeth come together. If you tilt you head way back and very lightly touch your teeth together, only the back teeth touch. If you bend way forward, only the front touch, and the same with tilting the head left or right.
You can visualize as the head moves forward, the muscles in the front of the neck get tight and tend to pull the jaw down and back. We tend to think of the jaw and teeth as their own entity, but now, you can see that the jaw bone is connected to the neck bone and the neck bone is connected ... as the old song says.
People with FHP tend to have painful spasms in the muscles of the head and neck. These spasms disguise themselves as severe headaches or neck aches.
Muscle pain is usually associated with working too hard in the yard, pulling a muscle, exercising, lifting, getting older, etc. These particular muscles pains are not because of any kind of physical activity.
It is kind of like oil in your car. You can drive the car without changing it, and everything seems just fine until one day, the car freezes up, and you wonder what happened. If you stress the body long enough, one day it is going to talk back to you.
This is a complicated issue to solve, and it involves several medical entities such as a specially trained massage therapist, physical therapists, chiropractors and dentists. Looking in the mirror and feeling for painful spasms of the head and neck will give you a good clue if you have a potential problem.
Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit drmaclee.com or call 361-782-7191.