Peterson: Weight Of Head Can Be 42 Pound Gorilla

The Weight of Your Head Can Become a 42 Pound Gorilla
By Kreig Peterson
Medical Massage Therapist

I would like to talk about forward head posture (FHP) a painful and insidious condition, and how it occurs.

The average human head weighs around 8 to 12 pounds all stacked up nice and neat on seven little vertebrae. This wasn’t a problem until we developed a forward head leaning world through extended the use of computers and decided to load our children down with 60 pounds of books to carry around all day at school. 

Normally, the head should sit directly on the spine and shoulders nice and balanced sort of like a golf ball on a tee, but as soon as our bowling ball sized heads start leaning forward during 21st century activities listed earlier, the result can create severe muscle strain, pain in the shoulders and an aching neck complete with tension headaches. It has been proven that for every inch forward that we hold our heads the weight on the C-7 vertebrae translates to 10 pounds per inch. 

By shifting our heads a mere four inches forward while reading our tablets our heads become a 42 pound gorilla on our cervical vertebrae. When vertebrae are subjected to that kind of significant load for a sustained period of time they deform and go through remodeling changes that can become permanent.

 FHP can also cause tension in the temporomandibular joint causing TMJ and leading to pain and bite problems. Evidence also exists that FHP can affect nerve tissue and alter blood flow to the spinal cord and create chronic strains tissue degeneration, disc herniation’s and early osteoarthritis.

 FHP can also cause a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome, which is a pinched nerve syndrome characterized by numbness in the arms and hands and burning sensations in the shoulders.

The good news is that FHP can be corrected over time with the help of a qualified massage therapist and chiropractic adjustments to first eliminate pain and soften tense muscles.  Once the person suffering from this chronic condition starts to feel better, a steady exercise regime of strengthening the neck and back muscles and stretching the chest or pectoral muscles can at the very least prevent the condition reaching the point of no return. 

I highly recommend a trained Pilates instructor to customize an exercise program to help in the strengthening and correction of FHP after pain relief is achieved.

Kreig Peterson is available for consult at 505.410.6161. For more information, visit

Editor’s note: Kreig Peterson owns In Touch Medical and Therapeutic Massage in The Mary Deal Building in Los Alamos. He graduated with honors at (UTMI) Universal Therapeutic Massage Institute in Albuquerque in 2011 and UTMI’S medical massage program in 2012. Kreig is nationally certified by NCBTMB and working on his board certification with this organization.

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