How To Correct Forward Head Posture By Stretching
How Do I Know I Have Bad Head Posture?
Neck pain is a very common condition, especially neck pain which results from poor posture. Science has lately come to the rescue of neck pain as the accurate diagnosis of various conditions has improved over the years. Now, there are several ways for health practitioners to quantify these conditions providing a baseline against which progress can be made and measured.
There are two main methods of making such measurements.
This low-tech solution works well. The patient adopts a standing position against a wall. The distance between the rear of the skull and the wall is measured using a ruler. The extent of forward head posture is directly proportional to the distance between head and wall.
This method requires a bit of geometry. The key measure being a critical angle at the base of the neck. Although this method is more complex than the first, it is widely considered to be more precise.
There are other measurements for assessing forward head posture. These include:
Calculating Craniovertebral Angle
This solution requires an understanding of anatomy and geometry. The craniovertebral angle may be visualized as follows:
- Picture an imaginary line that travels horizontally over the C7 spinous process (you’ll find it at the foot of the neck.)
- Picture another line between the C7 spinous process and the tragus — a pointy bit in front of the ear cavity
- Now, the craniovertebral angle lies at the intersection of these two lines
The craniovertebral angle can be determined by a process known as photogrammetry. Basically, a computer algorithm works out the angle from a photograph of the patient’s head. This has no side effects in comparison to X-rays. Before computers, a technician would have to place sticky dots on the patient’s head to make angles easier to calculate in the mind’s eye.
I’ve measured it. Now what?
In simple terms, there is an inverse proportionality between craniovertebral angles and forward head posture — smaller angle = bigger problem. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know exactly when this angle stops being okay and drifts into unhealthy territory. Right now, the smart money’s on an angle of less than 50 degrees.
Paul Simon said ‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.’ In the same way, one man’s normal neck posture is the next man’s abnormal neck posture. But the presence of pain may reliably be taken to indicate that something isn’t right, wherever it is located. Here are some remedies designed to alleviate posture discomfort or pain.
There is no doubt that training can encourage healthier posture, with exercises designed to strengthen neglected muscles and to stretch tight muscles in the neck and chest. Best practice would be to engage a trained health professional such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor and let them draw up an exercise regime for you which would be perfectly suited to your specific circumstances.
No matter what you’re doing, practicing good posture all through the day will always prove beneficial. Continued practice reduces stress on the cervical spine over time.
A word of caution: You shouldn’t expect forward head posture to correct itself in a couple of days. Effective improvements typically require commitment over weeks or even months, before tangible benefits become apparent.
Forward Head Posture: Corrective Exercise
Forward head posture is a very common condition. Sufferers complain of neck and back pain and tension headaches. In the majority of cases the root cause will be poor posture. There’s no need for despair however, because little changes can immediately begin to restore postural health from day one.
Do I have forward head posture?
There’s an easy and effective way to identify whether you have forward head posture. Here’s what you do. Standing feet shoulder width apart against a wall, push your bottom hard against the wall. At the same time, make certain that your shoulder blades make contact with the wall. Now, ask yourself: are you touching the wall with the back of your head? If the answer’s no then you can be pretty certain that you have forward head posture.
So what, exactly, is ‘forward head posture’ aka tech neck
Forward head posture affects from 66% to 90% of us, so it’s pretty prevalent. The condition, which also goes by the description Scholar’s Neck arises when the head is set in front of the body, the skull forward-leaning in excess of one inch over the first neck vertebra.
The consequences of forward head posture are complicated. The musculature and joints of the neck weaken, while the muscles in the upper back and shoulders tighten, causing the head’s center of gravity to move forward, and in so doing, increasing the load on the neck. The seriousness of the condition is best illustrated by a simple scientific fact: one inch of forward movement results in an additional 10 pounds of load on the neck. This is enough of an effect to cause dysfunction in muscles and in skeletal, neural, and vascular systems.
Forward head posture can also be fairly serious too. Forward head posture may give rise to continual, abnormal pressure in both neck and shoulders, raising the potential for:
- Round shoulders
- Herniated discs
- Higher pressure on muscles
The combined manifestations of the ailment produces what is known as ‘tension neck’ syndrome. It’s bad enough that the neck and shoulders are affected in this way. But that may just be the start of your problems. Changes in the neck alter the body’s center of gravity and when this happens it can affect your torso and every joint in your body.
The highly resourceful body seeks a positional change through the body’s balance control systems. This may result in an attenuation of the body’s ability to balance — increasing injury risk.
Here are five exercises which you can carry out on your own. They are easy to understand and easy to perform. Incorporating them into an exercise routine would go a long way towards maintaining the health of your neck and back.
1. Self Massage
This exercise frees the sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is often overactive. Here’s how to perform it effectively:
- Adopt a sitting or standing position
- Locate your sternocleidomastoid. (there’s one either side of the neck, running from the back of the ear to the middle of the throat
- Once located, pinch or press the entire length with your fingers
- One minute on each side should be enough
2. Neck Flexion
This exercise stretches the back of your neck.
- Tuck your chin in with two fingers
- Place your other hand at the back of your head
- Gently pull your head to your chest
- You’ll feel the stretch. When you do, hold for about half a minute
- Repeat 3 times.
3. Chin Tucks
This exercise is ideal for strengthening deep muscles at the front of the neck
- Put two fingers at the foot of your chin — to keep the chin tucked in for the duration of the exercise.
- Tuck the chin in and pull the head back
- Simultaneously use your fingers to keep this position about five seconds
- Relax your neck by letting the neck ease gently forward
- Try for a minimum of 2 to 3 sets consisting of ten repetitions
4. Shoulder Blade Squeezing
An exercise to strengthen lower back muscles.
- Stand with feet and knees a bit wider than your hips
- Get the spine into a neutral position by adopting a chin tuck and raising the chest
- Let arms hang down by your sides
- From this position bring arms back turning them so are point backwards
- Hold for 5-10 secs then release
- Try for 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.
5. Mid Scalene & Upper Trapezius Stretch
This exercise stretches neck and back muscles (Scalene & Upper Trapezius). These are muscles which tighten to a painful degree in those with forward neck syndrome.
- Stand or sit
- Put one of hand on the opposite side of your head
- Bring your head down in the direction of your ear
- Use the other hand to gently push the neck down
- Repeat two or three times, holding each time for about 30 seconds
The identification and correction of forward neck position is a complicated business and needs to be carried out by trained practitioners. We have looked at the two principal means to measure and quantify the condition and we’ve given a breakdown of the negative effects of the condition on well-being.
We have also listed some exercises which are simple to perform but which can have great therapeutic effects on the condition. Organizing yourself to carry out a simple daily regime of helpful neck exercises could benefit sufferers to a high degree.
Finally, do seek professional advice before embarking on any exercise regime as this will ensure that the course of action you choose can be carried out safely.
Hey there, I'm Josh!
But you probably guessed that. I'm here to help provide you with the knowledge and understanding of your posture so that you can improve your way of life and live more comfortably. Without all the aches and pains that life throws our way.