What Is It?
Forward head posture is a structural change that occurs over time, characterized by the head’s protrusion over the first vertebra. The weight of our head is designed to comfortably rest above our neck and shoulders, causing little to no strain on the surrounding muscles. As forward head posture occurs, the weight of our head (relative to our body) increases, putting more strain on the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back. Muscular tightness in these areas occurs over time which, if left untreated, often leads to neck pain, decreased spinal mobility, and weakness in surrounding muscle groups.
It is important to understand how forward head posture occurs because in today’s society, everyone is susceptible. You may not be aware that many activities of your daily life have also been identified as contributing factors to the development of forward head posture. Some examples include driving a car, working at a computer, talking on the phone, texting, and reading. Click to learn more about how texting has contributed to the Health Epidemic of the Tech Era.
Of course, it is not to say that these specific activities cause forward head posture – rather, they promote poor posture.
How Does Poor Posture Lead to Forward Head Posture?
Adaptations – The body is wired to adapt readily and frequently to changes in our environment. One thing that remains constant, however, is that the body likes to expend as little energy as possible. Sitting upright in a chair requires certain muscles to engage, whereas assuming the ‘slouched’ position requires minimal effort.
Habits – The way we position ourselves while sleeping, sitting on the couch, or driving a car, requires little conscious effort once the activity becomes a habit. Likewise, our body positioning associated with each respective habit often occurs without a conscious awareness.
Time – Time is perhaps the most important factor that contributes to the development of forward head posture. The more time we spend maintaining poor posture, the more readily the body will adapt. For example, if you work at a desk and assume the slouched position for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks of the year, certain muscle groups will begin to loosen and others tighten in attempt to minimize overall energy expenditure.
Forward head posture can also lead to other conditions such as:
- Pain and discomfort in the neck, shoulders, upper back, and jaw
- Headaches/ migraines
- Overall loss of height
- Decreased athletic performance
- Pinched nerves
What Can I Do?
- Get adjusted – chiropractic alignments can help alleviate symptoms associated with forward head posture by working to correct the root of the cause. Adjustments will relieve stress on the spine as well as improve its mobility.
- Exercise – your chiropractor may prescribe corrective exercises aimed to stretch, mobilize, stabilize, and strengthen certain muscle groups that are affected by forward head posture.
- Practice mindfulness – becoming more aware of your posture an important step in working to correct it. The more often you are able to catch yourself holding poor posture, the more often you will be able to correct it.
- Create new habits – as you become more aware of the specific situations where you succumb to poor posture, work on creating new habits that promote proper posture. For example, if you tend to slouch while sitting at work, try setting a reminder on your phone to take stretching breaks throughout the day. Remember that similar to forward head posture, habits are not formed overnight – they require conscious and repetitive effort.