Babies are adorable.
They come into this world and hypnotize us with their steady, wide eyed gazes, their little sighs of satisfaction, and that new baby smell. We love to hold them. We love to snuggle them close. And we watch them as they sleep in our arms. It is utterly peaceful… until we try and turn our heads later in the day.
Enter: New Baby Neck.
Many parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles suffer from this condition as soon as a new addition is made to the family. The anterior head carriage involved in gazing adoringly at babies causes an intense strain in the cervical spine (neck).
This is especially prominent in nursing mothers. While breastfeeding in a seated position, many women find their head pulled forward as they watch their child nurse. There are many positions for nursing and any certified lactation specialist can help you to determine which is best for you!
The facts behind forward head posture (FHP) have been very well documented in research over the past few decades. The following facts were taken from an article in Dynamic Chiropractic:
- For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” (Kapandji, Physiology of the Joints, Volume 3)
- According to Rene Cailliet MD, director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Southern California, forward head posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment. FHP results in loss of vital capacity of the lungs by as much as 30 percent. This shortness of breath can lead to heart and blood vascular disease. The entire gastrointestinal system is affected; particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common effect of FHP. It causes an increase in discomfort and pain because proprioceptive signals from the first four cervical vertebrae are a major source of the stimuli which create the body’s pain controlling chemicals (endorphins). With inadequate endorphin production, many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain. FHP dramatically reduces endorphin production.
- FHP has been shown to flatten the normal neck curve, resulting in disc compression, damage and early arthritis. (Roentgenographic findings of the cervical spine in asymptomatic people. (Spine, 1986;6:591-694)
The good news is this: There are tools that can be used to combat New Baby Neck.
Chiropractors have been working with the biomechanics in the cervical spine for over one hundred years. Maintaining healthy motion in the upper mid back as well as the neck can help to relieve the symptoms of New Baby Neck. This works best, however, when coupled with restorative exercises.
Cervical Extension exercises utilize an appliance to allow gravity to restore the curvature in the neck and improve biomechanics.
Head-Neck Retraction exercises help to bring the ear back into line with the tip of the shoulder which removes a lot of stress from the muscles of the posterior cervical spine.
Scapular Retraction and Shoulder Stabilizing exercises can be used to open up the shoulder girdle and improve respiration.
There are many more!
It is always important, though, to have a movement specialist such as a Doctor of Chiropractic or Physical Therapist evaluate your individual circumstances before applying home care exercises. Through careful examination, Chiropractors assess the biomechanics of the spine before choosing appropriate exercises to enhance function. We may even teach you to modify other behaviors such as lifting and carrying children to further protect your spine!
Whether you are suffering from New Baby Neck, work at a computer all day, or spend a lot of time on a tablet or cell phone, it is important to take care of your cervical spine. To schedule a consultation to talk with Dr. Samelak about your neck or shoulder pain, please use the contact form below!