Forward Head Posture – What is it?

Forward head posture, also know as turtle neck or texting head is a condition where the head is protruded forward, rather than sitting nicely on top of the trunk. This can cause pain in the upper back and neck areas and even the lower back. This is due to strain on the spine caused by the head being extended far from the body making it ‘heavier’.

Normally weighing in at between 10 or 12 pounds when nicely balanced on the neck, the head becomes a heavier burden, the more it protrudes from the trunk. In extreme forward head posture cases, the head can ‘weigh’ over forty pounds; that’s almost four times its normal weight. The stress this places on the neck and spine is enough to cause chronic pain, disk damage and, if not corrected soon enough, upper crossed syndrome, otherwise known as anterior posture syndrome, which can be hard to reverse. This is due to a shift in the body’s centre of gravity

So what causes this anomaly?

Well it’s mainly due to modern technology! Sitting hunched over a laptop computer for long periods of time can cause the head to crane forward, slouching the shoulders forward and putting abnormal pressure on the vertebrae of the spine and the fascia, ligaments and muscles of the upper and lower back. Texting on our phones is another culprit as is driving in a tense forward position. Unfortunately our body’s structural design has not caught up with the technological age. We were never designed to sit for long periods of time. We were designed to move – walk, run and hunt for food.

According to most physical therapists, posture is one of the main components of health. Not just physical health either. What many people don’t know is that bad posture can cause us to feel sad and depressed. So it can affect our body and our mind.

Some of the symptoms of forward head posture can include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain in neck, shoulders and/or upper, middle and lower back
  • Headaches
  • Impaired mobility
  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased lung function
  • Loss of height
  • Poor sleep
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Perceived increase in body weight
  • Spinal degeneration
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Vertigo
  • Digestive issues
  • Decreased confidence and self esteem

As you can see, the symptoms are varied and can be quite debilitating. The benefits of even a small improvement in head position can lead to an increase in testosterone levels and a decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol.

You probably already know if you have forward head posture. If not, simply look at yourself in a mirror while standing sideways. If your ears are in front of your shoulders and your spine is tilted forward, then you have forward head posture. Don’t despair, it’s a common ailment these days and can be repaired with a few exercises done consistently over a few weeks. Here’s a good example of a set of exercises to follow from Dr Alan Mandell.

What’s also important, and what most exercise gurus tend not to mention, is you need to monitor yourself throughout the day to make sure you’re maintaining good posture. Simply doing fifteen minutes of corrective stretches and slouching your way through the rest of the day isn’t going to achieve much. Even if you can’t stand up fully straight, stand and sit as best you can while your correcting forward head posture. Soon it will become a habit.

So please do these exercises if you have forward head posture. You may notice a difference within a week (I did), but follow through for six weeks for a permanent improvement.