neck pain caused by forward head postureForward Head Posture (FHP) has damaging effects that are becoming more evident. Headaches, back pain, high blood pressure, mood swings and other body functions are influenced by it. These and other issues can be improved or eliminated by improving this condition.

Forward head posture is one of the most common posture issues people experience. Between the use of devices such as computers, laptops, tablets & smart phones as well as playing video games and watching TV and strenuous activities including something as simple as lugging around a heavy backpack, almost everyone is at risk of FHP. Repetitive movements in certain directions strengthen muscle & nerve pathways. For instance, a gymnasts abilities improve with repetitive practice that trains and strengthens the body for those specific movements.

Perfect posture would have the head balancing directly above the neck and body. The head is quite heavy, so holding it forward, out of alignment, causes strain to your neck & upper back muscles & spinal column. This can cause muscle fatigue and neck pain. Neck muscles tend to lose blood, get damaged, fatigued, strained and experience pain, burning & Fibromyalgia when the neck and shoulders have to carry the weight of the head all day in an isometric contraction. Spinal tissues deform and undergo potentially permanent remodeling changes after sustaining this load for lengthy periods of time day after day. Not only does it take time to cause forward head posture, but it takes time to correct the damages of it. Forward head posture has been shown to flatten normal neck curve, causing disc compression, damage and early arthritis. Cervicogenic headaches, also known as tension headaches, are also caused by this abnormal positioning of the head and neck.

Forward Head Posture leads to long term muscle strain, disc herniations, arthritis and pinched nerves.

Forward head posture effects of the weight of the head

The TMJ (temperomandibular joint) or jaw joint also receives tension for FHP that causes pain, headaches & bite problems. There is evidence that blood flow to the spinal cord effected by head posture can effect nerve tissue. Uncorrected forward head posture can cause chronic conditions such as pinched nerves & blood vessels, like thoracic outlet syndrome, muscle & tissue pain, Syndromes like Fibromyalgia, chronic strains, and early degeneration and arthritis.

FHP is easily detected and usually visually obvious. First, have the person you are checking look at the ceiling, then the floor and then strait ahead. Find the center of their shoulder and draw and imaginary line straight up. It should line up with the middle of the ear hole. If it doesn’t, it should be checked immediately by a chiropractor. Medical doctors do not fix these problems. Despite considerable evidence that posture affects physiology and function, the significant influence of posture health is not addressed by most physicians. Don’t forget, long lasting posture problems like forward head posture will cause spine & nerve damage, and symptoms are rarely present early on.

The Solutions

The First Step in correction is to be examined and scanned by Dr. Michalski to identify the exact measurements of the FHP. Once that is established, a specific corrective care program can be laid out. Dr. Michalski will address poor ergonomics and the elements of your life that can be contributing to your FHP. He can then come up with chiropractic solutions as well as stretches & exercises that you can do to help repair the damage and help keep you in alignment.

Spinal view of forward head posture

The second thing is to adjust viewing of computer monitors and TV screens so that the top 1/3 of the screen is at eye level. You need to adjust how far your eyes are from your viewing surface. This depends on your computer screen or TV size. If you have a standard 15″-21″ monitor, your eyes should be 18″-24″ from your screen. If, however, you re playing video games or watching TV on a 60″ Television, you should be 7′-12′ away. Also make sure to support your back and sit up straight.

Step three is an exercise. Every 20-30 minutes, sit up straight and pull the neck & head over the shoulders. Hold for 3 seconds and do 15-20 reps. Alternatively, stand against a wall with a small pillow at your mid-back. Move your head back to touch the wall. Hold for 3 seconds and do 15-20 reps of this.

The forth thing you should be doing is always using a back support pillow or cushion when sitting or driving. By supporting the lower back, the head and neck will move back over the shoulders.

This shows how backpacks can lead to forward head posture

Next, when at home, lay your face down on the floor and extend your head and shoulders up while pinching your shoulder blades together with your hands behind your lower back. Hold for 3 seconds and do 15-20 reps.

Finally, if you use a backpack for hiking or if you are a student carrying heavy books, Make sure your backpack never weighs more that 15% of your body weight. Never carry your backpack on one shoulder. Always use the waste belt and if available, the chest belt to neutralize the load. Without these belts, the head will move forward to compensate for the load. The new backpacks that have the air bladder has been shown to significantly reduce weight without a strap.

Monitoring good posture is a lifetime commitment!

With a little effort and a chiropractor like Dr. Michalski on your health care team, you can be assured a future doing things you love to do, rather than suffering from damage and degeneration that poor posture can bring.