The Case of the Bowling Ball Head

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Over the many years of interest and training in physical therapy with a bit of osteopathy, I have come across an interesting term: Bowling Ball Head. This term originates out of the fact that so many of us have Forward Head Posture (FHP). FHP comes from leaning over our computer all day and not maintaining a good sitting or standing posture. Your head is being held out over your body. Over time the muscles of the head and neck become sore and tired from this position. This excessive pull puts additional pressure/strain on your muscles, nerves, and spine. If you think about it, an adult’s head weighs anywhere from 8-11 pounds (as heavy as a bowling ball!) In our practice, while on the dental chair and the patient is supine, I will frequently ‘sense’ how the head is doing by reaching under the back of their neck. As I slowly lift the head, I can feel how heavy it is. After moving the neck and head around, doing some stretches, and generally re-aligning this part of the body, I notice that with the blood is flowing more readily, almost all patients report their headaches are going away or feel the muscle tension is less. Remember POSTURE is important and try to keep your head over your shoulders, aligned and balanced. Poor posture will create symptoms and vice versa the jaw will show symptoms of headaches, back, neck, shoulder pain, and attribute to added breathing problems. Posture plays a role in treating your TM joints and becoming healthier.

Many of our new patients have FHP because the discs in the jaw joints are out of place. By leaning forward this takes the pressure off the slipped discs, and this lessons their symptoms. Those symptoms often include head or neck pain, headaches, tremors, and even sleep issues. By slouching forward, it often will cause the airway to become restrictive making breathing difficult. In so many of the cases that we treat, by wearing appliances to “open up” the space in the jaw joint to make room for the discs, the patient is able to stand straighter and breathe better. This is what TMJ treatment is all about- make room for the discs in the joints to stay in the correct anatomical position on top of the condyle. All of which is a trickle-down effect and in turn improve posture accordingly.

In my office, we take very specific x-rays to look at the jaw joints, airway, and the cervical spine (the neck). In almost all cases that neck is too straight and lacks the normal and healthy curvature necessary for good posture and good health. Looking at the C-Spine helps because if out of alignment, it is often necessary to incorporate physical therapy. So, as you can see, it is important to look at the whole picture when looking at forward head posture.