Look into a mirror when you are standing sideways and draw an imaginary line from your ear hole to the shoulder. If your head is forward of the line then you have forward head posture. Forward head posture means a loss of the curve of the neck, which is needed to function properly. The vertebral column has 4 spinal curvatures that are important for balance, flexibility, shock absorption, and force distribution. If these spinal curvatures deviate too much from normal limits, it can lead to issues such as pain, muscle tightness, and can even affect your spinal nerves.
It is not unusual that so many people suffer from forward head posture. With the advances in technology, there is frequent use of devices such as computers and smart phones that have made us very vulnerable to postural problems. Our bodies were not designed to spend hours hunched in front of a computer, looking down at a phone to text, playing portable video games, or watching shows on tablet devices. Consider how many years you have been doing this. The youth of today have been doing this for basically their entire lives and now many more are suffering from postural health issues. Due to this technological lifestyle, postural problems have become an epidemic.
When the head sits properly on top of the spine the weight of the head is evenly balanced. When your head is forward of your body’s centre of gravity, this causes the structures of your neck to undergo unnecessary strain. For every inch of forward head posture, the weight of your head increases by an additional 10 pounds. If this faulty position perpetuates, the bones in your neck will move out of alignment and will not function as they should. Furthermore, retaining a particular position for even 3 hours can result in scar tissue being laid down in and around the joints, which will ultimately reduce the neck’s range of motion and nerve function. A mound of soft tissue at the base of the neck may develop due to the compressive loads upon the upper thoracic vertebrae known as a “Dowager’s Hump”. The added pressure on the spinal cord, nerves, and discs can cause neurological issues such as headaches, disc herniation, and pinched nerves leading to numbness or tingling in your hands or feet as well as fatigue and a weakened immune system. Over time, poor neck posture can also lead to long-term complications such as osteoarthritis. In fact, forward head posture may actually promote accelerated aging of the spinal joints resulting in early degeneration. There are even more far reaching effects of anterior head carriage. Posture also affects bodily functions from breathing to hormonal production such as mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity.
Correcting anterior head carriage cannot be accomplished overnight. It takes time for the body to revert to a correct position. The first step is to see a chiropractor to obtain a diagnosis and receive treatment to relieve your neck from joint and muscular problems. Once the neck structures are functioning well, corrective exercises will be prescribed to restore and maintain proper posture. Also, many lifestyle changes need to be made, for example, the set up of your office workstation and the amount of time spent using devices. It is also important to maintain an active lifestyle to prevent early degeneration and posture associated injury. Forward head posture has serious impacts on your health. It will only become worse with time if not corrected.
Suggested Exercises for Improving Posture
Lateral Neck Bends – Move your ear towards your shoulder on the same side. Use your hand to pull your head farther until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Perform 10 times each side.