All You Need to Know About Forward Head Posture
With proper head posture, the head vertically aligns with the spine. Forward head posture occurs when a person leans their head forward, out of the neutral alignment with the spinal column.
If the alignment of the head is off, it can cause various symptoms, including stiffness in the neck, pain, and even balance issues. Most cases of neck pain have a posture component that is causing the symptom.
Forward head posture can strain the neck muscles putting extra pressure on the cervical spine and increasing the risk of spinal degeneration. Recognizing and understanding poor posture can help you correct the condition and relieve neck pain.
Fortunately, you can reverse forward head posture through exercise and stretching. These techniques will help you learn to align your head with the spine.
What is Good Head Posture?
To maintain good posture, the ears should align with the shoulders, with an open chest and the shoulders back. This is considered a neutral position, and stress on the neck is minimal because the head’s weight is in balance with the cervical spine.
What is Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture occurs when the neck slants forward in front of the shoulders rather than directly above. This can lead to several problems and can be caused by several factors.
Many people associate it with using electronic devices such as phones or computers. Technology is related to forward head posture, but other contributing factors exist.
Any activity that causes a person to lead their head forward for an extended period can cause forward head posture. Causes may include:
- Carrying a heavy backpack or purse
- Driving with a hunch back
- Sleeping with the head raised
- Reading in bed
What are the Side Effects of Forward Head Posture?
Pain and Stiffness
Forward head posture puts extra pressure on the neck muscles, causing strain and pressure, which lead to pain and stiffness.
Some people experience anterior neck pain caused by increased tension in the muscle above the hyoid bone. This can feel like neck pain or tension in the front of the neck.
Some people feel pain in the form of headaches or myofascial trigger points. Frontal head posture increases the load on the upper cervical spine muscles, triggering cervicogenic headaches.
Temporomandibular joint disorders can also develop because of forward head posture. The muscle tension above the hyoid bone results in greater demand on the jaw muscles.
Rounded Shoulder or Upper Back
Frontal head posture can cause a person to develop rounded shoulders and upper back. In addition, it may impact the movement of the scapula (shoulder blades) or humerus (the long bone of the arm). Upper crossed syndrome is what healthcare professionals refer to when you experience frontal head posture and rounding of the shoulders.
Increased Stress on the Cervical Spine
When the head is held forward with poor posture, the cervical spine has to support the increase in weight. For every inch the head is held forward, 10 pounds of weight is felt on the cervical spine. The average human head weight is 10 to 12 pounds, so even 1 to 2 inches out of alignment can double or triple the load on the cervical spine.
Three Ways to Improve Frontal Head Posture
Many treatment options can help frontal head posture. Most of these can be done at home, but medical interventions can also be considered.
- If you work on a computer or are consistently on your phone, try to practice sitting upright, keeping the neck and spine in a neutral position. The ears should be aligned with the shoulder.
- Physical therapy can teach stretching and strengthening exercises to correct forward head posture. They may teach you chin tuck exercises and stretching exercises for the chest.
- Over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or aleve) can help with the pain. In some cases, doctors can also prescribe muscle relaxants to help with muscle spasms.
How Can I Avoid Forward Head Posture?
If you sit at a desk for an extended period, try to focus on sitting in a neutral position and use proper posture. You may try the following techniques to help keep good posture:
- Place the feet flat on the floor
- Adust your chair so it supports your lower back
- Position your screen to eye level
- Ensure your mouse is nearby and use a mat with a wrist pad
- Take frequent breaks
Also, try to avoid cradling your phone between your ear and neck.
Concerned About Forward Head Posture? Connect With the Top Spine Surgeons in Palm Beach County
Dr. Hepler is a leading expert in operative and non-operative treatments of the spine. He is fellowship trained in both adult and pediatric spine surgery.
Back and neck pain can be debilitating, so it is essential to place your trust in a specialist that can diagnose and treat your spinal condition timely and effectively.
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The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.