The rise of technology is having a profound effect on our health, habits and most notably our posture. Wherever you go you will see many people standing, walking or sitting whilst looking down at their mobile device screen. If you didn’t know, looking down at your screen all day can, and will, give you forward head posture.
Forward head posture is fast becoming an epidemic.
How we hold our bodies up is incredibly important to our day to day happiness because with bad posture, can come low mood, anxiety, and depression, as well as other health issues. Not only that, but if your head starts to tilt too far forward it can become particularly unattractive.
Forward head posture can also cause discomfort and pain in the back of the neck down to the shoulders, including nerve impingement, as well as upper back and shoulder issues.
I myself have suffered from forward head posture, but can gladly say that my neck has seen a lot of improvement and is straightening up. In this post I’ll outline the best research I have come across as well as a step by step plan to fix your forward head posture.
How Forward Head Posture Develops
Think of a bowling bowl balancing on top of a long malleable metal pole. If you were to place a small bend at the top of the pole it’s likely that the bowling bowl will begin to weigh down and start to cause the pole to bend even more. Over time it will bend more and more.
This is similar to what happens in forward head posture if you continually look down, where your head is the bowling ball and the pole is your spine. You may think that your head isn’t as heavy as a bowling ball, but you may be surprised to know the average human head weighs 10-11 lbs (4.5 -5 kg).
As discussed before, looking down at your phone all day or being hunched in front of your computer screen will put your neck in this compromised position. Over time, your muscles and tissues will adapt to the positions that we hold them in for lengthy periods.
Correct posture should be where the ear, shoulder, hip, knees and ankle are in a straight line. With forward head posture, the ears will not be inline.
How to Correct Forward Head Posture
To fix your forward head posture, the key is to reverse all the muscle imbalances that have been caused from having your neck in a forward position. Specifically, some muscles will become too tight, and some will become too long and weak. Hence, we want to loosen the tight muscles, and strengthen the weak ones.
So which muscles are affected and how are they affected?
- The muscle at the back of your neck (neck extensors) will be too tight.
- The muscle at the side of your neck called the Sternocleidomastoideus, gets too tight. This muscle attaches behind your ear and wraps itself around the neck to the front. If this is too tight, it pulls your head forward.
- The muscles at the front of your neck which sit on either side of the throat, the deep cervical flexors, will be too weak. Holding your head in a forward position causes them to switch off because they are no longer needed to hold your head up.
The goal to fixing your forward head posture is to reverse these points.
This may sound like there’s a lot going on but you’ll realise how true all these imbalances are if you notice what happens when you try to look at something that is at eye-level. For example, I notice that when I watch TV my head will be tilted upwards, with my eyeballs looking slightly downwards. Have you noticed this yourself? When your head is tilted up like that, it shows that the front muscle is too weak, and that the back of the neck is too tight.
Watch These Important Videos
If you are going to pay attention to anything in this post, I’d highly recommend that you make watching these two listed videos as your priority. Yes, you can even skip what is written in this post, I don’t mind.
These two videos will help you learn everything you need to know about forward head posture and how to fix it. All the steps I’ve compiled below involve exercises and stretches taken from these two videos. The videos are both short and well worth watching.
This video has a comprehensive neck stretch, and two exercises you can do to fix your forward head posture.
This video has a great explanation of the muscle imbalances that create forward head posture, as well as a modfication to the wall lean exercise described below.
5 Steps Easy Steps to Fix Forward Head Posture
Here are 5 steps that you can do every day to correct your forward head posture. These will not take you long at all to complete, at most it will be 5-10 minutes. Do them everyday and you should see some improvement after a period of time.
If you haven’t watched the two videos above I recommend you do so now, as all the ideas for these stretches and exercises are from those videos.
1. Release the Tight Neck Muscles on the Side
The first step is to release the tightness in the Sternocleidomastoideus muscle. It may sound intimidating but it’s very easy to do. First you need to locate the muscle. The muscle starts just behind the ear around the ear lobe and runs down the front of your neck. If you located it properly, when you squeeze it near the top it should feel rather thick then gets thinner as you run down it.
To release it, simply run your fingers up and down it applying a bit of pressure. After running your fingers back a forth a few times, make tiny circles with your fingers on the muscle, then make your way down to the base of the neck. You only need to do this for a minute or so.
If you need more release, or are having difficultly locating it, watch the video above.
2. Release the back of the neck
Now that the Sternocleidomastoideus have been loosened, the next step is to massage the muscle that run down either side of the back of the neck. You can get someone else to massage it, but you can also use a peanut massage ball. You can get them cheaply on Amazon.com.
Place the peanut on the floor and gently lower the back of your neck onto it. Slowly roll up to the top of your neck and back to the top of your shoulder blades. You can lift up your hips to increase pressure, but be careful not to put too much pressure on the neck.
3. Wall Lean Exercise
The Wall Lean Exercise will help strengthen the front of the neck to push your head back. Watch the video above to learn how to do this exercise.
Note that you can also do this exercise on the floor.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Tuck you chin close to your chest, then push your head into the ground.
- Try to push your neck into the floor whilst holding the position. Don’t push too hard.
- Consciously think about the muscle in the front of your throat and making sure they are being activated. You may not feel it at first but learn to notice it.
4. Prone Cobra Exercise
Simply doing the wall lean exercises daily will help with your forward head posture, but you can also add the prone cobra exercise to your routine to fix other issues that often accompany forward head posture.
5. Change Your Posture Habits
This step is one of the most important things to address if you want to fix your forward head posture for good. There’s no point doing all these exercises if you continue to put your head in a compromised position and reinforce the posture.
You may have to be a little conscious of when you put your head in a forward position. Below we’ll quickly run through some points to watch out for.
- Do you have forward head posture because you continually look down at your phone? When looking at your phone try to hold your phone higher closer to eye level, or simply, use your phone less. There’s no need to be glued to your phone all day. Get outside and look around, explore.
- Much like looking down at our phones, we hunch and arch our necks forward over our computer screens all day. Develop better sitting posture, and raise your screen to eye level if possible. Getting a standing desk is also a good idea.
- Forward head posture most of the time does not happen in isolation. You may find you have other posture problems. Forward head posture is usually accompanied by rounded shoulders and a rounded upper back. You will want to fix these in conjunction with your forward head posture.
- How thick is your pillow? If you have too thick a pillow it can push your head forward far out of line with the rest of your body. When you hold this position overnight, the muscles adapt to this position. Consider getting a thinner pillow or an orthopaedic pillow. In my case, I have found that sleeping without a pillow is more comfortable for me. This should also work.
Correcting your Posture Takes Time
Your neck posture didn’t get like this overnight, but most probably developed through bad posture habits everyday. The body however, is extremely adaptive and a wonderful piece of equipment. It will respond if you are more conscious of how you use it and do these exercises. Your body will also be happy you’ve made these changes and reward you with better mood, positivity and happiness. Fixing your forward head posture is well worth the effort.