Modern Life Alert: Forward Head Posture Can Damage Your Health

If you’re constantly sitting at a computer, using your smartphone or otherwise engaging in activities that thrust your neck into an unnatural position, you may be suffering from Forward Head Posture (FHP). The suffering typically includes headaches, stiffness and neck pain, but your symptoms don’t have to continue. A mix of orthopedic manual therapy, Foundation Training, and Pilates can help realign your spine and pelvis, rebalance your body and ensure proper posture becomes a part of your daily life.

What It Is

Think of a vertical line running up through your spine. In a perfect world where everyone had perfect posture, your head would be balanced directly above your spine in alignment with that vertical line. Forward head posture occurs when you consistently hold your head in an excessive forward position. This position, in turn, extends your middle cervical spine, flexes your lower cervical spine and plagues you with rounded shoulders and a hunched back.¹

Who Gets It

You’re a prime candidate for FHP if you sit at a computer all day, are an avid smartphone user or play a musical instrument that forces you to contort your head to hold the instrument in place. Computer screens, smartphones and sheet music perched on stands are often placed below eye level, forcing folks to thrust their heads forward for better viewing.

People who carry heavy backpacks, especially children, are often prone to FHP, thrusting their heads forward in an attempt to compensate for the heavy weight on their backs. People who wear glasses with multifocal lenses or are fans of high heeled shoes often fall prey to FHP, as do those who breathe through their mouths, rather than their noses.² ³ ⁴

What It Does to Your Health

FHP can bring on neck pain, sore shoulders, respiratory weakness and a variety of headache types.¹ ⁵ ⁶ ⁷ Tension headaches are particularly common, thanks to the ongoing tension FHP places at the back of the neck.⁸ As the jaw muscles try to offset or compensate for the unnatural positioning of the head, temporomandibular disorders can also crop up, especially temporamandibular joint dysfunction, also known as TMJ.⁹

Keep up this poor posture as an ongoing habit, and you can eventually suffer from muscle imbalances that affect your entire body. Muscles held long enough in a chronically lengthened or shortened position will begin to believe that’s their natural state and strive to adapt. The end result is a “faulty relationship” among the various parts of your body, increasing the strain and decreasing your body’s performance.¹⁰ ¹¹ ¹²

How to Fix It

Realizing you’re engaging in FHP is the first step toward its correction, as is learning what constitutes the natural positioning of your head and overall posture.¹³ Realigning the spine is the next step, which can be helped through thoracic manipulation as part of an orthopedic manual treatment plan.¹⁴ The third and final step is maintaining proper posture in all your activities, a move that can be achieved through Foundation Training and Pilates.

Exercise programs that stretch and strengthen affected muscles have been effective for FHP and posture correction, particularly those that stretched the pectoralis muscles and strengthened the deep neck flexor and shoulder retractors.¹ Stretching and strengthening are two major focuses of Pilates and Foundation Training, both for targeted muscles as well as the entire body.

Its overall focus on elongation, proper spinal alignment and breathing makes Pilates and Foundation Training an ideal long-term way to treat and prevent future instances of FHP. One more bonus is the mindfulness and body awareness both exercise program produces, which can help people adjust their environment and their positioning to help ensure proper posture is a way of life.

REFERENCES:

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