Forward Head Posture and How to Fix it at Home
A hunchback is something that no one wants to be confronted with as they get older. This rounding of the upper back is called “Kyphosis” and can be noted from the side profile of a person. Forward head posture, sometimes called “Scholar’s Neck”, “Text Neck”, “Wearsie Neck”,”or “Reading Neck”, refers to a posture where the head appears to be positioned in front of the body. It is a condition that is derived from kyphosis and happens because of the rounding of your upper back and therefore your head being pulled down. This shortens the muscles that extend from the back of your head to the bottom of your cervical spine and generally speaking, shrinks the back of the neck.
This neck kinking can lead to all sorts of pain and strain and a hunch back is something that no one wants. Forward head posture is very common with people who suffer from the back/neck condition complaining of persistent neck and upper back pain, as well as tension-type headaches.
There are many elements of daily life that can cause forward neck posture.
Bad posture is the most common of these, along with consistent sleeping on the couch with the head resting on the arm rest. Sleeping with too many pillows can also have the same effect. Other causes include:
- Weakness of your neck muscles
- Previous neck strains or sprains
- Extended computer use
- Extended cellphone use (“text neck”)
- Prolonged driving
- Incorrect breathing habits
- Carrying heavy backpacks
- Participating in sports that involve the dominant use of one side of the body
Certain professions are more at risk due to repetitive movements of the body (i.e. hair stylists, massage therapists, writers, computer programmers, painters, etc.)
To prevent or even work towards correcting forward head posture, you must incorporate exercises into your daily life. These exercises can be done anywhere and are a great way to lead towards preventing the unsightliness of this issue. It can also help to upgrade your office work station to something a little more ergonomic. If this is causing the problem, then all your hard work with exercising will be for nothing. Taking considerable notice of your posture and having a supportive pillow also goes a long way in correcting your forward head posture.
If you are wondering if you are suffering from forward head posture but are not sure if it exactly sums up what you are experiencing, there is a simple at home test you can do. Stand with your back towards a wall with your heels positioned shoulder width apart. Then press your buttocks against the wall and ensure that your shoulder blades are in contact with the wall. Squeeze your shoulder blades together can help you get your shoulders into a more neutral position and better aligned with the wall. Now, check your head position. Is your head touching the wall? If it isn’t, you have forward head posture and should do your best to correct it.
Symptoms of forward head posture are often painful and uncomfortable with sufferers experiencing:
- Neck pain
- Back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Restricted breathing
- Bulging and herniated discs
- Sleep apnea
- Headaches and migraines
- Chronic fatigue
Some effective exercises that can be done anywhere:
Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) self-massage:
This will release the SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) muscle, which tends to be overactive on most individuals. Locate your SCM (there is one on each side of your neck that runs from behind your ear to approximately the middle of your throat and connects to your collarbone – in a “V” pattern- and it will feel like a tight band of muscle). Pinch or press this muscle with your fingers, running up the length of the entire muscle.
This will stretch the back of your neck muscles including the Suboccipital muscles. Tilt your head slowly forward and rest your chin on your chest. Hold for five seconds. Return to a neutral position.
Side head tilt:
This exercise will stretch out the neck and upper back muscles (Scalene & Upper Trapezius) which get very tight on individuals with this forward head posture. Tilt your head toward your left shoulder until you feel a stretch. Hold for five seconds. Repeat on the right side.
Push your chin forward until you feel your throat stretch. Hold for five seconds. Pull your chin back in to return to a neutral position.
Turn your head to the left until you feel a stretch. Hold for five seconds. Return to a neutral position. Repeat on the right side.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze:
Maintain a chin tuck and raise your chest up, allowing your spine to be in a neutral position. Rest both of your arms down by your sides. Now bring your arms back and externally rotate them so that your thumbs are pointing backwards. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and release.
Setting up an ergonomic work station is essential to ensure that you are not going to be backtracking on the exercises that you are doing. An ergonomic work station is best described as having your chair at the perfect height so that your feet can rest flatly on the floor. Your elbows should also rest at a 90-degree angle when placed on your desk. Your computer screen should be an arm’s length away from your face, with your gaze being directly level with the top of the screen. If your computer screen is not correctly placed you will find yourself straining your neck and even worse, slouching forward. This will only contribute to the forward head posture condition.
Forward head posture is a very common condition and many elements of life can lead to this neck strain without you even realising. Test yourself at home to see if you do suffer from this condition. If you find that you do, consider your work station and its ergonomics and make changes where necessary. Incorporate the above exercises into your daily life and maintain a healthy and upright posture. The above tips can lead to a complete correction of any symptoms of forward head posture, all in the comfort of your own home.