How Poor Posture Can Cause Headaches

Jul 11, 2023
How Poor Posture Can Cause Headaches
Chronic poor posture isn’t simply an aesthetic concern — it’s a severe problem that can set the stage for many health conditions, including chronic headaches. Here’s how faulty posture and headache pain are connected.

Chronic poor posture isn’t simply an aesthetic concern — it’s a severe problem that can set the stage for many health conditions, ranging from ongoing neck, shoulder, and back pain to slowed digestion, heartburn, and constipation. 

It can also trigger chronic headache pain, including migraines. 

If you suspect your habitually slouched shoulders, rounded back, and forward head could have something to do with your frequent headaches, you may be right — and our seasoned team at Spine Care of Manassas Chiropractic Center can help. 

Here, Dr. Lincoln German and Dr. Mikaela Foley explore the fundamental link between poor posture and recurrent headaches and offer solutions to help you correct the problem. 

Which “poor posture” habits do you practice?

Posture refers to how your body is positioned when it’s still or in motion. Static posture is how you hold your body when you’re not moving (i.e., standing, sitting, lying down), and dynamic posture is how your body is positioned when you’re in motion (i.e., walking, bending, lifting).

In our largely sedentary, screen-driven society, most of the faulty postural positions people adapt develop when they’re at a desk, checking their phone, driving, or washing the dishes. When you stick with any incorrect static posture long enough, it becomes a habit easier to maintain than correct. 

Common poor posture habits include:

  • Slouched positioning (flat lower back, “pot” belly)
  • Hunched shoulders and rounded back when seated
  • Forward head posture when looking at a screen
  • Exaggerated lower back arch stance (sway-back)
  • Prone sleep positioning with head raised or turned

Eventually, these poor postural habits can give rise to musculoskeletal imbalances that make it hard to maintain proper dynamic posture. This self-reinforcing loop makes you less mindful of your body and may encourage you to:

  • Shift your weight to one hip and leg while standing
  • Move with a rounded back and a disengaged core
  • Hold your head forward when walking or running
  • Carry heavy bags or objects on one side of your body
  • Breathe less fully or deeply during aerobic activities

It doesn’t take long for ingrained poor posture habits to give rise to back pain, neck tension, sore shoulders, and headaches, but faulty posture becomes a much greater concern — and has the potential to do more damage — when it’s long-term.

Is poor posture the root of your headache pain? 

Faulty posture places undue stress on your entire musculoskeletal system. This stress is initially concentrated in your spine and joints, but it doesn’t take long to ripple outward to your supporting soft tissue structures (i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, spinal discs). 

Habitual poor posture can even lay the foundation for chronic headaches, including migraines, through the basic mechanisms that set the stage for all posture-related pain problems:

“Fast twitch” muscle fatigue

 Your body relies on several mechanisms to help you maintain good posture with minimal effort. Unfortunately, bad posture habits can wreak havoc on these mechanisms over time, starting with your muscle fibers. Skeletal muscle consists of two types of muscle fibers: 

Static fibers

Commonly referred to as slow twitch fibers, these deep-muscle fibers help you maintain posture without much effort. They also contain mechanosensory neurons that contribute to balance by ‘sensing’ your position in space and relaying this information to your brain. Because static fibers burn energy very slowly, they can function for a long time without tiring. 

Phasic fibers 

Otherwise known as fast twitch fibers, phasic muscle fibers power your movement and activity. However, these high-energy fibers quickly run out of steam when they’re turned on all the time — as they are when your posture is incorrect. 

“Slow twitch” muscle tightening

At the same time as it’s fatiguing your fast-twitch muscle fibers, poor posture is causing your slow twitch fibers to waste away from lack of use. As these weak, unused muscle fibers tighten and shorten, they can compress your spinal joints and worsen your post

Nervous system feedback loop

When your fast twitch muscle fibers take over your posture, your deeper muscle fibers also stop relaying a complete sensory picture to your brain. Your brain assumes your body needs extra support, so it triggers further muscle contractions, intensifying poor posture's imbalance/fatigue/pain cycle. 

Ease your headaches with postural rehabilitation 

It's hard to overstate the positive health effects of good posture. Why? There are so many potential negative health effects of chronically bad posture.

If posture-related spinal misalignment, muscle tension, and soft tissue imbalance have made their way up the kinetic chain — from your shoulders and neck to your head — we can help. Depending on what we find during your assessment, we may recommend the following: 

We also offer several evidence-based pain relief therapies for chronic headaches, including myofascial dry needling, therapeutic ultrasound, and cold laser therapy

To learn more about the link between poor posture and chronic headaches, call or click online to schedule an appointment with our experts at Spine Care of Manassas Chiropractic Center in Manassas, Virginia, today.