Written by Dr. Mark
Well to answer that, first it really needs to be asked, why do we do chiropractic the way we do it? Its simple, to improve your NERVOUS SYSTEM FUNCTION. Your brain and nervous system are AMAZING, and are in complete control of you and how you work. You cannot live a moment without out it. The only way to connect to the rest of you is through your spinal cord and every single nerve that exits between every single joint in your spine. These joints can become mis-aligned, causing subluxation (mis-alignment of a spinal joint, putting pressure on a nerve, interfering with its ability to properly function). We know a spine should be perfectly straight when we look at it from the front or back, and from the side it should have 3 curves that should be right around 45 degress. This is where the head weights come in.
Our goal with our patients is to improve nervous system function by improving and maintaining the spine. We do this through chiropractic adjustments along with some other “tools.” We’ve got quite a few but today is all about the head weight. The head weight is essentially lifting for your neck. The main purpose is to strengthen the muscles in the neck that, because of our culture, just aren’t that strong. They are in a constant stretch from our forward head posturing and don’t typically get worked in a way to contract that constant position. The head weight does just that. Beyond strengthening, it’s also training you and your nervous system to hold your head upright. You know when wearing them, you really can’t hold your head out in front and you have to look straight ahead and not down.
So I decided to talk about this because we had a really great example the other day of how well the head weights can help. What we look for in a lateral (from the side) view of the neck x-ray: I’m just going to go through the measurements we use.
This is a standard lateral cervical x-ray.
A: Here we are measuring the angle between the base of the skull and the Atlas (C1). They should be parallel (0 degree angle). The concern here is if this angle is too much it can mean the atlas is putting pressure on the brain stem or putting tension on the spinal cord. In this case, with the angle being 5 degrees, and its orientation, it is not a major concern, but something we’ll be working on.
B: This measurement is the inferior (bottom) end-plate of C2 and its angle against horizontal. It should sit perfectly flat (0 degree angle). This is mainly used for tracking improvements in cervical curve.
C: Forward head position. We have a landmark in the skull (sella turcica) that we drop a vertical line from. We then measure from the anterior (front) aspect of C5 to that vertical line. This gives us our forward head position. This number should again, be as close to 0 as we can get it, meaning if it is zero, your head is being held straight above the spine, and not out in front. Having it out front puts extra strain on the muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders along with extra stress on the spine, leading to early degeneration.
D: Cervical curve. Measured by extending a line off the posterior (back) of C2 and C7, and measuring the angle of intersection. Ideally this is 45 degrees. Having less leads to mechanical and neurological problems.
This is the same patient, with a head weight on, taken a few weeks after the initial x-ray.
A: The angle between the base of the skull and the Atlas has been reduced to only 2 degrees, nearly perfect.
B: The angle of C2 vs horizontal is reduced to 3 degrees, again nearly perfect.
C: No measurement because there is no longer a forward head position = perfect!
D: 40 degree cervical curve, again, near perfect.
Not everyone has such great response to the head weights, but in most cases they show good improvement. In case you were wondering, we take the head weight x-ray to make sure it does in fact help. In some cases the curve or one of these measurements will be worse with the head weight, it varies by the person and what condition they were in to start.
So, if we’ve given you the green light to use the head weight, but you weren’t completely sure why, I hope this helped clear that up for you. Stay committed to the purpose of what we’re doing together to improve your spine!