A Beginner's Guide to Preventing and Correcting Forward Head Posture
Another busy workday at the office is drawing to a close. You’ve spent the past 3 hours hunched over in front of your desk, leaning in and squinting intently at figures on your computer screen. As you get up from your chair, a sharp pain radiates from the base of your skull, down through your neck, and on into your arms. Your left hand feels a bit numb and as you stand up you notice a dull ache and tightness in your neck muscles. Now that you’ve disengaged your gaze from the computer screen, you realize that a headache has come on; something that you’ve dealt with more frequently nowadays.
All of the symptoms just described above may be the result of “forward head posture”, a condition that is now sweeping America in epidemic proportions, and due to the growing use of computers, Smartphones, and other portable devices. In fact, forward head posture is now prevalent in all office settings. And, being involved in a car wreck in the past is one common underlying factor that may produce more intense forward head posture-related muscle pain, due to the fact accidents such as those cause permanent traumatic damage to the cervical spine region.
Having said all that, sitting for hours on end with your shoulders rounded forward and face positioned uncomfortably towards your PC’s screen is not helping your back and neck health at all. And in the end, your forward head posture-accentuated condition, if left unchecked, will probably continue to digress painfully over time.
Forward Head Posture is Accentuated by these Common Behaviors
According to neck pain experts, when you use forward head posture, it causes the muscles surrounding your spine, specifically in the neck and upper back region, to get overworked, sore and fatigued as they try to counterbalance the weight of your tilted head. In fact, for every inch that your head is leaned forward, and out of its natural upright alignment, your neck muscles feel like they are supporting an extra 10 pounds of weight! Over a period of hours, that leads to muscle fatigue and tightness.
In today’s world, there are many causes that may lead to a person suffering later from forward head posture-induced neck and upper back pain flare-ups, while also intensifying the painful symptoms. Most risk factors are technology-driven, and include the following:
- Computer and other technology device use
- Watching TV intently
- Video gaming for extended periods of time
- Carrying heavy backpacks and book bags
- Trauma to upper spine area such as from a car accident or sports injury
Obviously, most of us are not going to be able to eliminate all, if any, of these forward head posture inducers. However, there are ways to modify your posture while doing the correctible activities on this list, but more on that in a moment. Regarding poor head posture, WebMD also chimes in by stating that forward head posture health problems are partially due to sitting for long periods of time without getting up or changing positions. WebMD adds that forward head posture is an additional end result of slouching and poor posture in general. Unchecked, forward head posture can lead to many lifestyle-altering conditions, which will be unveiled next.
These Painful Health Issues may Occur Due to Forward Head Posture
As was aforementioned, harmful overall poor body posture, including forward head posture, oftentimes work as a synergistic and deleterious “dynamic duo”, and in the process may precipitate many more serious health effects moving forward. According to back and neck pain experts, those potential and painful conditions include the following:
- Chronic neck and shoulder aches and pain
- Numbness in your arms and hands
- Not breathing properly, which leads to reduced oxygen intake, poor blood circulation, a lack of vital nutrients reaching your body’s tissues (including damaged ones in your neck and upper back!), along with reduced levels of your body’s natural painkillers being released like serotonin and endorphins
- Tightness in your neck and upper back muscles, which can cause fatigue, headaches, drowsiness, and exacerbate feelings of stress and depression
So, if you work on a computer screen for many hours each day, or are guilty of too many of the other lifestyle risk factors listed above, and you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, forward head posture could be the culprit. Left unchecked, your future is going to be one probably filled with aches, pains, and even more serious, and costly, poor health outcomes.
Forward Head Posture can be Corrected Using these Methods
On the flipside, there is some very positive news out there related to correcting forward head posture, and several proven methods to identify and effectively overcome this common problem are available. Based upon successful treatment outcomes by neck, shoulder and upper back pain specialists, including chiropractors, the jury is in on how to better protect oneself from manifestations of forward head posture-induced problems. Here are some of the better preventative measures currently recommended:
- Periodic shoulder, neck and upper back manipulations and massages by trained chiropractors, physical and massage therapists
- Exercises and stretches that specifically target the vulnerable neck and upper back muscles, along with your arms and shoulders that are also at risk of injury. If in an office setting, get up at least every 2 hours and perform stretching exercises.
- Using good posture at all times, especially while seated in front of a computer
At the end of the day, if you implement all three of these recommended preventative measures, you will probably enjoy each and every day in a more pain free way! Now let’s break down one of the forward head posture fighting methodologies in more detail, and analyze what proper posture should look like, with a focus on your sitting posture.
Good Posture Promotes a Number of Positive Health Outcomes
Employing proper posture throughout your day, including while seated and even when sleeping, has medically been proven to promote a number of positive physical and mental outcomes. These benefits include:
- Reducing the likelihood of suffering a back or neck pain episode, or most assuredly attenuating the severity of the symptoms.
- Allowing for normal breathing and air intake into your lungs, which promotes better oxygen transfer and blood circulation in general to your body’s tissues, including muscles that may be damaged or stressed.
- Releasing positive body chemicals into your system like testosterone, endorphins and serotonin, which do everything from relieve pain naturally to provide you with more vigor and energy. In the end, your appearance and “swagger” will also improve.
- Relieving stress to your back, shoulder and neck muscles, and also mentally
- Helping you to get a better night’s sleep, which further restores your energy levels and leads to a more productive you at work, or while involved in other activities!
Okay, the life-changing benefits of using proper posture are quite clear. Next we’ll take a look at how good posture should appear if you were observing yourself from outside your own body; kind of like an “out-of-body” posture lesson.
Preventing Forward Head Posture Requires Keeping Your Head on a “String”
Whether seated or standing, you should always do so with your head up, chin up and out, shoulders back, and chest up and forward. It may feel a little awkward to you at first, but try it a few times anyway. With respect to your seated posture, which will come into play when you are next back at your workstation peering fixated at your computer screen, here are some tips to ward off forward head posture:
- Pretend your head is on an invisible string that is inserted under your chin and that exits on top of your skull. Then envision someone pulling straight up on that string, and towards the ceiling. That’s how your head should be aligned at all times while seated.
- When sitting down, your feet should be flat on the floor, and with your knees up and at least level with the chair’s seat. Your spine should also be snug to the chair’s back, with your shoulders also back, and not rounded. Don’t scrunch or slouch down in the chair.
- Adjust your computer screen so that the top of it is at eye level. While tasking away, keep your chin up and pointed out.
Using these various tips should help alleviate the onset of forward head posture, whether you use these recommendations at home or on the job. Also remember to get up from your chair every 2 hours or so, and do some quick stretching exercises. In the end, your neck, shoulders and upper back will thank you again and again!
Forward Head Posture Fears the Lumo Lift Posture Coach
Another tool in the battle against forward head posture exists, and it’s called the Lumo Lift Posture Coach. Designed by the posture experts at Lumo, the Posture Coach actually uses cutting edge technology to help reduce technology-induced neck and back pain issues! The Lumo Lift Posture Coach consists of a small, discrete and stylish lapel pin-sized monitor that is worn on your clothing. This sensor constantly picks up your body’s posture signals, and then transmits the data to an iOS or Android compatible app. Later, and at your convenience, you can see how you are coming along in an effort to improve your posture.
And, the Posture Coach can even be worn at night while you are sleeping! Another benefit of the Lumo Lift Posture Coach is that it will alert the wearer with a gentle vibration when improper posture is being used, and especially as a reminder in the struggle against forward head posture. It’s just another way that the experts at Lumo are trying to make the world, especially as its technology grows, a more posture-friendly one, one person at a time!