You may not hear the words “forward head posture” until you visit a physician or chiropractor who diagnoses you with the condition. Unfortunately, it’s an ailment that has become more prevalent due to technology, but forward head posture can affect nearly anyone. Here we’ll explain what forward head posture is and outline tips for correcting it.
What is Forward Head Posture?
For many back pain sufferers, the assumption that pain begins in the neck may seem far-fetched. However, because all of our internal systems are interconnected, damage to the neck can, in turn, cause issues throughout the body.
Forward head posture refers to the condition that results when we place too much pressure on our necks. Other names for this condition include text neck, scholar’s neck, reading neck, or iHunch. Damage occurs when people lean forward, which adds more pressure to the neck than it is accustomed to carrying.
Whether people are focused on handheld devices, books, TV, computers, or they’ve experienced trauma, the bending and pressure can cause significant damage to your neck and spine. According to a study from the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine, people who work mostly with computers are at higher risk of developing “protruded head and neck posture.”
The study compared two groups of workers, half which worked with computers regularly and half who rarely used computers. The people who worked with computers more often had more protruded heads with extensive neck posture, resulting in an inability to move forward and backward with ease.
People in the study who worked with computers most often had more difficulty maintaining their center of balance than people who did not. In the study’s conclusion, researchers suggest further studies to determine the overall effects of posture problems on the body as a whole.
Concerns Regarding Unresolved Forward Head Posture
Many people don’t realize they have forward head posture until they experience back pain. Your neck connects to your spine, so pressure on your head or neck can creep down until you experience pain, numbness, or stiffness in your back.
According to Dr. Axe, even heavy backpack wear can cause forward head posture, and the younger a student is, the worse the effects. Girls also experienced more severe forward head posture than boys.
Even in mild cases, a person’s spine can become damaged to the point of requiring surgery later in life, but the condition can also cause other health concerns.
Once someone develops forward head posture, that can cause further related conditions like arthritis, asthma, fatigue, headaches, TMJ, and even fibromyalgia. Bad posture due to forward head posture can also interfere with healthy digestion.
How to Correct Forward Head Posture
Fortunately, there are ways to rectify forward head posture. Since recovery starts with preventing further damage, start by paying attention to troublesome posture and stop slouching before the back pain begins.
Use Devices Wisely
Most cases of “text neck” stem from smartphone use at an incorrect angle, placing undue stress on your neck and spine. However, tipping your head to look down at a laptop, book, or computer screen can create similar issues.
Some children develop forward head posture from a traumatic birth and delivery via forceps or vacuum, which puts a strain on their small bodies. Many adults and children develop issues with their spines after a trauma like a car or a bicycle accident.
But overall, changing the way that you use your devices can improve your posture and keep back pain from coming back. Ways to avoid a crick in your neck include:
- Holding your smartphone or tablet up instead of looking down at it
- Moving your eyes rather than your head and neck
- Placing computer screens at eye level
- Maintaining proper workstation ergonomics
- Avoiding heavy backpacks or purses, especially ones that make you lean to one side or the other
Dr. Axe recommends posture exercises such as arm circles, arm closes, lateral raises, rows, and pull-ups to correct forward head posture and improve your mood. Another activity to promote better posture is to place your hands on the frame of a doorway, lean forward, and push your chest forward.
Unfortunately, in extreme cases, these exercises may not provide adequate pain relief. People also must perform these posture exercises regularly to earn any lasting benefit.
Core Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening your core refers to building up the muscles that surround your spine and organs. These central muscles support your bones and spine and even protect against damage. Focus on your abdominal area, as well as your shoulders, and perform exercises slowly and smoothly.
According to WebMD, common core exercises that help strengthen primary muscles include:
- Leg extensions
- Back extensions
- Plank pose
In general, mild to moderate exercise can help relieve back pain, according to the Mayo Clinic, and the same advice applies to forward head posture-related pain. If your neck problems have traveled down your spine, exercises like knee-to-chest stretches, the bridge exercise, and cat stretch can all offer relief.
Exercise in general also helps to increase blood flow to damaged areas of your body, promoting healing through circulation.
Physical therapy is a smart way to rehabilitate tender necks and backs. Further, performing mild exercises under the watchful eye of a professional is the safest way to work out. If your forward head posture is especially pronounced, your physician or chiropractor may recommend a detailed course of physical therapy.
According to Science Daily, personalized physical therapy for back pain can offer relief from a variety of back pain causes. A combination of manual therapy and exercise proved beneficial to patients who had lowered function because of back pain, one study found, and positive results persisted through the 12-month follow-up period.
Chiropractic care can help realign your spine as you attempt to correct forward head posture. According to Active Spines Chiropractic, for example, recommends chiropractic adjustment over cervical, thoracic, and the first rib to benefit people with forward head posture.
Regular chiropractic care can also relieve symptoms of TMJ syndrome (temporomandibular pain), restore joint motion, realign your neck and upper back, and relieve headaches, Active Spines notes.
Receiving chiropractic treatment in addition to performing stretches and strength-building exercises helps to build up your core and protect your spine against future damage.
Consider a Posture Corrector
If you have a severe posture problem or find it difficult to keep your body aligned properly throughout daily activities, consider choosing a posture corrector. Posture correctors train your neck, shoulders, and back into alignment by supporting your core and relieving pressure.
Posture correctors come in many sizes, materials, and strengths so you can find one that fits you and offers the proper support.
Maintain Proper Ergonomics
Ergonomics refers to the efficiency and safety of your movement, which is significant when it comes to spine and back health. If you often work at a computer workstation, consider moving your computer screen, chair, and other equipment to prevent neck strain.
Computer monitors should be at eye level, chairs should allow you to sit up straight but not stiffly, and you should be able to reach everything at your desk without overextending. Standing workstations are a helpful alternative to people who have difficulty sitting for long periods, or if your office chair doesn’t support your lower back adequately.
Although forward head posture can prove painful and even dangerous, there are many ways to alleviate symptoms while helping your body to recover. Fortunately, with a multifaceted treatment approach, most people can recover from back pain due to posture issues.