Forward Head Posture (FHP) can be recognised by the positioning of the ear being forward of the shoulder, rather than sitting directly over it. Poor neck posture leads to a Forward Head Position which is one of the most common causes of neck, head and shoulder tension and pain.
This can be a result of long term habits of “slumping” at the computer, whilst driving, sitting poorly on the couch, or poor sleeping posture. These habits can be worsened if strains and sprains of the neck have occurred in the past which has weakened the neck muscles.
Many people do not realize that they have poor neck posture, so you will want to test your posture to see if prolonged computer use, television viewing or incorrect sleeping positions have affected how you hold your head. With the advent of mobile devices and moving away from desktop computers, it is rare to find anyone that does not have forward head posture -it really is a modern epidemic!
How Do I Tell If I Have Forward Head Posture?
Stand with your back flush against a wall. Align your heels at shoulder width apart, your buttocks against the wall and your shoulder blades touching the wall. Focus on touching your shoulder blades, rather than the tops of your shoulders to the wall.
You may need to squeeze your shoulder blades slightly together to get them in a more natural position. This is sometimes called “opening your chest.” If you touch the tops of your shoulder blades to the wall, you will over arch your back, resulting in further poor posture.
Notice as you get into this stance whether the back of your head touches the wall or not. If it does not touch the wall, you have forward head posture, and it is likely that you suffer from weak neck muscles.
Get into the correct head posture touching the back of your head to the wall. Next, pretend that there is a string going from the base of your neck to the top of your head. Pull that string up from the top creating a longer neck.
Stand this way for 1 minute. Return to this position frequently to review how your posture is changing.
What is the Danger of Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture can lead to chronic neck pain, referred pain and numbness in the arms and hands, improper breathing and even pinched nerves. This is because every inch your neck goes forward there is an extra 4.5 kg of weight on your neck.
Chiropractors often diagnose spinal subluxation with forward head posture and need to perform spinal adjustments to correct these, relieving harmful nerve pressure and joint restrictions. In the long term, if the posture is not corrected, the subluxations can return and a vicious cycle eventuates.
Are There Exercises to Help Forward Head Posture?
After your chiropractor determines that your posture should be corrected, you will need to strengthen your neck muscles with exercises. We have selected several easy ones to do daily, even while at work.
Do chin retractions, otherwise known as nose nods. Lay on your back and bend your knees so that you are not hurting your lower back. Look up at the ceiling, ensuring your nose is perpendicular to the ceiling.
Nod your head slowly forward without moving your neck. Envision that you are drawing a small arc with the tip of your nose. Keep the movement very slow.
Slowly return your nose to its vertical position. Repeat 10 times. In a few days, increase your repetitions to 20 times. The next week, begin doing 2 to 3 sets of nose nods per day. Once you get used to the motion, you can do them standing up against a wall or standing straight away from the wall.
Do shoulder blade squeezes. Sit up straight in a chair. Your neck should be long and your legs should be at a 90 degree angle.
- Drop your shoulders, if tension has caused them to creep closer to your ears. Let your arms hang to your sides.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, as though you are trying to get them to touch. Hold this for 3 seconds. Slowly release to a relaxed position. Repeat this exercise 10 times, moving in a controlled manner. Increase to holding for 10 seconds and then to doing 2 to 3 sets per day as you get stronger.
- The goal of this exercise is to improve muscle strength in your shoulders so that you can raise your chest. It is difficult to have good head posture if your head is not supported by your chest and shoulders. Look down at your shoulders frequently throughout the day. If they are forward from your chest, do a few shoulder squeezes to set them in the right place.
Do a chin retraction, letting your nose sweep downward slightly. Once it is retracted, keep your chin at the same distance to your neck, but move the top of your head backward.
Stay there for a few seconds and move slowly, returning your head to an upright position. Then, move out of the chin retraction. Do this 10 times, working up to increased repetitions and sets.