Something that most people would not think about in relation to their dentist and the things a dentist thinks about is posture ... body alignment, but as someone who treats people with headaches, jaw joint problems, sleep breathing disorders, this is something that I find to be of utmost importance.
FORWARD HEAD POSTURE:
When I look at photos of people who lived a few generations ago, I see people who had very good posture. Today most of us work at jobs where we sit all day, look at computer screens for a good portion of the day, and one of the most common scenes that I see is people looking at small hand held screens (smartphones, tablets) and reading emails, or sending text messages. If you observe the posture of someone "texting" you will see what some call "texting neck", forward head posture, or "turtle neck". The effect of these scenarios on posture is that our head ends up postured ahead of our body. When the body is aligned, and a person is standing or sitting straight, the ears, shoulders, hips and knees line up (when looking at someone from the side). For every inch that the head is forward of the shoulders, it is as if we added 10 pounds of weight to the head. This puts tremendous strain on the muscles of the neck and back leading to pain in both those sites. This stress and strain and pain can put the body in a "stress" mode leading to the release of cortisol and putting us in a state of "fight or flight". This can lead to hormonal imbalances in the body. Forward head posture has also been shown to lead to a decrease in the strength of the muscles involved in breathing which can reduce lung capacity. By straining the neck musculature it can also contribute to Sleep Apnea and snoring which I have talked about in previous posts. What does this have to do with dentistry? "Forward head posture" is actually "Forward neck posture" with a "backward head posture". This has the effect of pulling the lower jaw backward and altering the "bite" over time. This can lead to TMJ disorders, headaches, ear pain, ringing in the ears, and a host of other symptoms which I have also talked about in previous blog posts.
HOW CAN ONE CORRECT THIS?
There are specialized excercises that one can do to help improve this condition. These involve strengthening the back, the core musculature, the neck. It may also require that the bite be stabilized with a dental orthotic which creates an optimal relationship between the lower jaw, the base of the skull, and the neck and spine.
The postural compensations and deviations from normal alignment that result in forward head posture can over time lead to deterioration of the body and our overall physiology. It may feel normal and not very obtrusive when we are young, but as we get older, our bodies are less able to adapt to the strains and stresses placed on it and things can start to break down. Joint pain, muscle pain, degenerating discs in the spine, ... these are just a few of the conditions that can result from poor body alignment.
A chiropractor friend of mine gave a great analogy the other day. Imagine you have new tires put on your car, but the tires are not balanced. The car will drive and it will feel OK at first. Over time there will be wear on the tires and additional stress places on the bearings and axles. This could lead to premature wearing out of the parts of the car. If the wheels were balanced to begin with and maintained, I think we could agree that the car would perform much more effectively for a much longer time with fewer problems.
If you suffer from back pain, sleep disorders, TMJ pain, respiratory distress such as Asthma, Emphysema, neck pain, headaches ... I encourage you to look into getting a postural assessment at your chiropractor, osteopath, or personal trainer and start taking steps to correct your overall body alignment.
Yours for better health,
Dr. Marty Frankel - Smiles by Design
3080 Yonge Street, suite 3030
Toronto, Ontario M4N 3N1