Shoulder Stress

What does a bowling ball have to do with my tight neck and shoulders?

As a full-grown adult human, your head weighs roughly 10-15 pounds. That’s the same weight as most bowling balls. 

So for a moment I want you to imagine holding a bowling ball in two hands above your head. As long as the weight of the ball rests squarely over the centre of your head, it should be fairly easy to hold. Your spine, shoulders and the rest of your body frame will support the weight of that bowling ball with ease. 

Now imagine the bowling ball gets pushed forward by just in inch so that it’s weight is resting slightly out in front of your body. That bowling ball is no longer centred on top of your body frame. Your muscles (especially the muscles in your upper back, neck, and shoulders) are going to have to contract harder to help support the weight of that bowling ball. 

Let’s go one step further. Imagine the bowling ball gets pushed another two, three, even four inches forward. It’s going to feel a lot heavier at this point, and all those muscles in your neck, upper back and shoulders are going to have to work even harder. And if I told you to continue holding that bowling ball out in front of you it wouldn’t be long before your muscles became totally fatigued, stressed, tight, and sore. 


This bowling ball analogy is exactly what happens in one of the most common structural issues we deal with in our office - Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS).

Anterior Head Syndrome is defined as a condition where the head has shifted forward so that it’s centre of gravity is no longer supported by the spine. This forces the neck and shoulder muscles to constantly contract leading to tension, tightness and pain. It looks something like this: 


Ideally, the ear will line up with the middle of the shoulder. In Anterior Head Syndrome, the head falls forward and causes the ear to line up with the front of the shoulder and sometimes the chest.

Ideally, the ear will line up with the middle of the shoulder. In Anterior Head Syndrome, the head falls forward and causes the ear to line up with the front of the shoulder and sometimes the chest.

Anterior Head Posture

When the head shifts forward it causes an excessive amount of stress and force to your neck (cervical spine). Over time it will cause an abnormal shifting of the spinal bones and flattening of the cervical curve. Not only does this place even more stress on your muscles, but it also leads to decreased mobility, nerve pressure, and early spinal degeneration. Let’s take a look at some of the research:

“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 Joints, Vol. 3
“Forward head posture can add up to thirty (30) pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment.” -Rene Cailliet, MD 
“Forward head posture has been shown to flatten the normal neck curve resulting in disc compression, damage, and early arthritis.” -Gore DR, Sepic SB & Gardner GM. Spine Journal


So what can you do about it?

The first step is to identify and understand what’s causing your neck and shoulder tension/pain in the first place. 

It is very common for us to be so concerned with the pain that we miss the underlying cause of the problem. For example, many times people choose the quick option of taking Advil or other medications to deal with their pain. This may help temporarily, but once we realize that it is not a permanent solution many of us will try massage or other manual therapies to reduce the pain. Massage is a great way to reduce muscle tension and pain naturally (we know and work with a couple fantastic RMTs in the Oakville area), but again we might be missing the underlying cause of the problem. 

In cases where the tension and pain is being caused by Anterior Head Syndrome then we must CORRECT that abnormal head position. In our office, we take an extensive look at your posture and underlying spinal structure to identify which areas are compromised and what we need to do to fix it. In most cases it requires a combination of structural chiropractic adjustments, cervical traction, rehabilitation exercises, and postural guidelines. When we do things this way we are actually addressing the underlying cause of the problem. The pain relief is not instantaneous like taking Advil or applying muscle relaxants, but the results are long-lasting and will positively affect your health for years to come. 

Do you have questions about our unique approach to chiropractic care? Are you looking for a great chiropractor in another city? Please give us a call - we are happy to help any way we can :)