Background: Forward head posture (FHP) is a common postural deviation. An increasing number of studies have reported that people with FHP present with impaired postural control and gait; however, there is conflicting evidence. A systematic review focusing on these relationships has been unavailable to date.
Research question: Is there a relationship between FHP, postural control and gait?
Methods: This systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) statement (PROSPERO ID: CRD42021231908). Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and CINAHL Plus (via EBSCO) were systematically searched, and a manual search was performed using the reference lists of included studies. Eligible studies included observational studies addressing the relationship between FHP, postural control and/or gait. Quality assessment was conducted using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Checklist for Cross-Sectional Studies.
Results: Nineteen studies were selected for this review. Consistent evidence supported that people with FHP had significant alterations in limits of stability (n = 3), performance-based balance (n = 3), and cervical proprioception (n = 4). Controversial evidence existed for a relationship of FHP with static balance (n = 4) and postural stability control (n = 4). Limited evidence existed to support an alteration in gait and vestibular function. Three studies on induced FHP consistently identified no reduced postural control.
Significance: Current evidence supports an association between FHP and a detrimental alteration in limits of stability, performance-based balance, and cervical proprioception. Instead of simply indicating impaired overall balance, the findings of this review indicate that a reduction in specific aspects of the postural control requires to be clarified in clinical evaluation for individuals with FHP, which would facilitate the planning and application of appropriate interventions to prevent dysfunctions and disability.
- Cervical spine
- Forward head posture
- Postural control
- Systematic review