More than ever now we’re seeing more people with a forward head posture due to our excessive computer use. Lately I’ve noticed my neck and shoulders getting tender after working at the computer, when this never used to happen. I find I’m constantly reminding myself to pull my head back in line with my spine. I’m thinking as a Pilates teacher I’m pretty aware of this alignment issue, but for some this concept may not be so familiar. So what exactly is a forward head posture doing to us?
What is Forward Head Posture?
If someone has a forward head position you can bet the muscles around the back of the neck and tops of shoulders are tight, really tight. Cervical spine extensors, and upper traps will have to work double time to hold your neck and head as upright as possible. When the head begins to migrate forward of the spine (second and third picture above) it puts immense pressure on the cervical spine (neck) itself and can throw the whole spine out of alignment!
Short Term and Long Term Effects of FHP
Forward head posture could result in a 30% loss of lung capacity. The ribs are restricted around the top near the cervical spine and will not be able to elevate properly during inhalation as the should. Some muscles of the neck, like the scalenes, that usually contribute to normal breath will not function as they should. Not to mention it is one of the leading causes of headaches!
Some studies show that FHP over time can contribute to disc degeneration, potential disc herniation, nerve impingement, bulging discs, or chronic back pain. In simple terms, the pressure of the spine radiating from the cervical spine (neck) will eventually put enough stress on other parts of the spine that they wear down.
What to Do
There are lots of ways to change your posture and improve your alignment, especially in the early stages. Osteopaths, and Chiropractors can make helpful adjustments to ease the pressure on the cervical spine. There are many exercises in Pilates that can help pull your alignment back and build strength in the neck to support a better head position. Strengthening the upper shoulders and obliques (side core) often helps build better support and alleviate some of the tension in the neck muscles. Osteopaths, and Chiropractors also can make helpful adjustments to ease the pressure on the cervical spine.
Here’s a quick fix workout for upper back and shoulders you can do if you’ve had a long day at the computer!
If you want more information on FHP read The 42lb Head.