Occupational and recreational habits have led to real pains in the neck. Tension and poor posture rank high as the most common pain generators. KRON 4 Morning News anchor, Marty Gonzalez, helps me demonstrate the effects of poor posture and how to fight the aching forces of gravity.
Forward Head Posture (FHP)
One of the most common postural problems is forward head posture — for both young and old. Forward head posture is also known as:
- Text neck, computer/notebook neck
- Sofa neck
- Book or reader’s neck
- Driver’s neck
Your head should sit directly on your neck and shoulders. Think of a golf ball on a tee. But the head is more like a bowling ball (weighing about 10 to 11 lbs) than a golf ball. Your neck and shoulders have to carry the burden of this “bowling ball” all day. Supporting and moving the human head is a challenging and tiring task.
Carrying your head is an isometric contraction — you’re actually “strength training”. An isometric exercise is a static hold where the joint angle and muscle length does not change during the muscle contraction.
Correct posture: Your ears line up over your shoulder blades.
Incorrect posture: Along with forward head posture, your shoulders also “round” and roll forward.
Causes of Forward Head Posture
Repetitive use of computers, TV, video games, trauma, and even backpacks/laptop bags have forced the body forward. Also, general muscle weakness from illness or aging can cause FHP — that is, you’re too weak to hold your own head up anymore.
The 40-Pound Head
When you’re holding your head forward (out of alignment), you are putting additional strain on your neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles. The result? Muscle fatigue and an aching neck and back. Here’s why…
- For every inch your head is forward, there is 10 pounds of pressure on your spine.
- If your head is 3 inches forward from your shoulders, you are carrying your head which is 10 pounds as well as the additional 30 pounds of pressure.
Studies show that for every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of your head by an additional 10 pounds.
If your head has migrated forward of your shoulders by 3 inches, you are adding an additional 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on your cervical spine — that’s a total of 40 pounds of weight on your neck! Your ENTIRE spine becomes out of alignment.
Symptoms of Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture causes a number of chronic health problems:
- Chronic pain in neck, shoulders, upper/lower/mid back
- 30% reduction in lung capacity
- Mouth breathing
- Reduced range of motion
- Muscle spasms
- Poor sleep
- Numbness/tingling in hands/arms
Treatment for Forward Head
- Postural exercises — strengthen muscles between the shoulder blades (retract shoulder blades) and expand (stretch) pectoral muscles
- Release tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, and back with a massage ball (tennis ball in a sock) for 5 minutes. Roll or press the ball into tight areas.
- Don’t sleep on a stack of pillows.
- Correct daily habits (posture while driving, on the computer, phone, etc.)
- Avoid carrying heavy purses, backpacks, laptop bags.
- Stretch last 2 minutes of every 1/2 hour of the day.
- Do chin retractions.
Karen’s Fit Tip: When you’re standing, watch where your thumbs are pointed — pointed forward or toward the midline of your body?