Frozen Shoulder, Thoracic Outlet and Forward Head Posture: the Bio-Mechanical Cause

What you are about to see is a video animation that describes the bio-mechanical failures of the upper cervical spine that cause the condition known as Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. The same bio-mechanical derangement is at the base of conditions such as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) and Forward Head Posture (FHP).

This video produced by Whole Health Partners isolates the cause of FSS,  TOS and FHP as a neurological disorder.

We will use the video in this post to expand the analysis to the interaction between bio-mechanical impairments of the upper cervical spine and reflexes: automatic involuntary movements generated by the nervous system that can lead to Forward Head Posture and Dystonia.


This video describes the bio-mechanical derangement of the upper cervical spine that can cause Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. It isolates the cause of FSS as a neurological disorder.

The interesting part of this video starts shortly before the second minute. The scenario of events that trigger frozen shoulder syndrome begins with a bio-mechanical failure of the upper cervical spine that locks the skull in a single position. This condition locks the head in an upward gaze.


The video shows clearly how the Righting Reflex of the neurological system drives the lower cervical spine into forward flection. The Righting Reflex moves the muscles towards a position that allows the head to face forward and the eyes to find the horizon line. This position also gives the subject a visibly Forward Head Posture.

The combination of the head beeing locked in extension and the lower cervical spine forced into flection creates a tethering of the brain stem and upper cervical spine. If the tethering force is great enough, any nerve around the tethered area will undergo a state of motor paralysis.


Mandible FHP 2

The image shows how a bio-mechanical impairment of the upper cervical spine that fixes the head in am upward gaze and the mechanism of the Righting Reflex of the neurological system can inhibit muscle activity and bring about Forward Head Posture.


What is the Righting Reflex? How does the nervous system create automatic unconcious mechanic movements? Why?

A reflex is a reflected action or movement. It is the sum total of multiple particular automatic response mediated by the nervous system. A reflex is built into the nervous system and does not need the intervention of conscious thought to take effect.

The knee jerk is an example of the simplest type of reflex. When the knee is tapped, the nerve that receives this stimulus sends an impulse to the spinal cord, where it is relayed to a motor nerve. This causes the quadriceps muscle at the front of the thigh to contract and jerk the leg up. This reflex, or simple reflex arc, involves only two nerves and one synapse. The leg begins to jerk up before the brain is becoming aware of the tap.

Other simple reflexes, the stretch reflexes, help the body maintain its balance. Every time a muscle is stretched, it reacts with a reflex impulse to contract. As a person reaches or leans, the skeletal muscles tense and tighten, tending to hold him and keep him from falling. Even in standing still, the stretch reflexes in the skeletal muscles make many tiny adjustments to keep the body erect.

The “hot stove” reflex is more complex, calling into play many different muscles. Before the hand is pulled away, an impulse must go from the sensory nerve endings in the skin to a center in the spinal cord, from there to a motor center, and then out along the motor nerves to shoulder, arm, and hand muscles. Trunk and leg muscles respond to support the body in its sudden change of position, and the head and eyes turn to look at the cause of the injury. All this happens before and while the person is becoming aware of the burning sensation.



Nerve pathway of a simple reflex. When the sensory nerve ending is stimulated, a nerve impulse travels along a sensory (afferent) neuron to the spinal cord. Here an association neuron transfers the impulse to a motor (efferent) neuron. The motor neuron carries the impulse to a muscle, which contracts and moves a body part. The concious mind does not intervene to direct these movements. The reflex triggers an involuntary movement.

A reflex that protects the body from injury, as the “hot Stove” one does, is called a nociceptive reflex. Sneezing, coughing, and gagging are similar reflexes in response to foreign bodies in the nose and throat, and the wink reflex helps protect the eyes from injury.

A conditioned reflex is one acquired as the result of experience. When an action is done repeatedly the nervous system becomes familiar with the situation and learns to react automatically, and a new reflex is built into the system. Walking, running, and typewriting are examples of activities that require large numbers of complex muscle coordinations that have become automatic.



When the upper cervical spine is jammed and locked into a twisted position, the spine bends and twists in order to allow the head and the eyes to allign with the horizon and gravity. This is a completely involuntary movement guided by what is defined as the Righitng Reflex of the nervouse system.


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