Forward head posture is a common problem across America. For some people, forward head posture is caused by working long hours at a desk in front of a computer. For others, forward head posture is a symptom of a more serious condition like kyphosis.
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about forward head posture, including symptoms of forward head posture, treatment for forward head posture, and how chiropractors help.
What is Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture occurs when your head sits too far forward. Your body is designed to have your head, neck, and back in alignment with one another along the ‘gravity line’. Ideally, your head, neck, and ears will all line up with the gravity line, which represents your body’s optimal stance against the downward pull of gravity.
Forward head posture occurs when the head is positioned forward of this gravity line when looking at the body from the side. When your head varies from the gravity line, it’s considered a deviation from your body’s optimal alignment.
What Causes Forward Head Posture?
As society has become more sedentary over time, forward head posture has become an increasing problem. Many office workers or individuals who spend hours staring at a computer screen will suffer from forward head posture, for example.
Daily activities like prolonged computer use can increase neck flexion, which means your neck is bending too far forward, eventually leading to forward head posture problems.
Kyphosis can also cause forward head posture. Kyphosis is a medical term referring to what happens when your shoulders and upper back round forward. The non-medical, less-flattering term for kyphosis is a ‘hunchback’.
Forward head posture is linked to problems with your cervical spine, including:
- The Cervical Spine (C-Spine): This is the term for the spinal column along your neck. Your cervical spine supports your head and is made up of a lower and upper portion.
- The Lower C-Spine: This is the bottom part of the cervical spine (your neck), which is the part that bends the most.
- The Upper C-Spine: The upper part of the cervical spine extends (bends backward) as you lift your head to be able to see.
What Are The Symptoms of Forward Head Posture?
Here’s a list of some of the main symptoms of forward head posture and muscle pain. Forward head posture causes muscle pain, so any form of muscle pain should be taken seriously.
Of course, there are other symptoms. Here are the main ailments:
General soreness: a dull pain or soreness may occur across the side or back of the neck, shoulder, upper back and/or head.
Headaches and Fatigue: Poor posture can eventually also cause headaches. This happens because slouching builds pressure in the neck muscles and head. A widespread musculoskeletal pain can also cause fatigue or Fibromyalgia. It’s likely that you will feel tired and have mood and memory issues.
Intense Pain: muscle strains and/or muscle spasms. Any severe burning pain in the muscles. Intensive neck pain may arise as well. If you feel an intense neck pain while performing certain movements, you should go and consult with a specialist.
Pain is typically located in one spot, such as the side of the neck (rather than pain coming from all across your body). Myofascial trigger point pain is also very likely. This is a pain in certain muscle spots that become even more painful when touched.
Muscle tightness: Numbness in hands, inflamed/tight muscles, stiff neck, pinched nerves, etc.. Reduced muscle functions and certain body parts that become less mobile are common symptoms.
What’s The Effect of Forward Head Posture on Neck Muscles?
When you have forward head posture, it typically means there’s an imbalance between the muscles supporting and moving your neck, back, shoulders, and head. Muscles in one part of the body may be stronger than muscles in another part. This problem worsens over time as your body subconsciously relies more on the stronger muscles.
Over time, this strength imbalance can cause the muscles in front of your neck to become weak while the muscles in the back of your neck become short, tight, and strained. When left uncorrected, the problem continues getting worse.
Which muscles experience problems?
Common muscles that elongate and weaken due to long-term forward head posture include deep cervical flexors, extensor muscles attached to the back of the lower cervical spine or upper thoracic spine and shoulder blade retractors. These are the main muscles that need to be targeted for strengthening.
On the other side, common muscles that become short and tightened are suboccipital muscles, levator scapulae muscles (pair of muscles located along the back and side of the neck) and chest muscles. We do exercises and stretches to focus on this type of muscles. Focusing on these muscles may reduce neck pain and improve forward head posture.
For more advanced reading material about this topic, you can read this medical article published by Spine Health.
Why is Forward Head Posture a Problem?
Forward head posture can lead to problems throughout the rest of the body. In some cases, forward head posture can lead to worsening neck or shoulder pain, headaches, or (upper) back pain.
In other cases, forward head posture is a symptom of a more serious problem, like chronic neck pain or kyphosis. You might lean your head too far forward as a way to reduce your neck and back pain. Over time, this can make the problem worse.
Forward Head Posture and Kyphosis
Some patients naturally develop forward head posture after spending long hours at a desk. Others develop forward head posture due to kyphosis, which is also known by its less flattering nickname, hunchback.
When your shoulders and back round forward, then your head will naturally become more forward over time as well. Then, as your head continues spending more time forward, your neck and back continue bending forward to accommodate. The problems build off each other, eventually becoming a noticeable “hunch” or forward lean.
The upper back area, called the thoracic spine, supports the neck and head. As the thoracic spine moves, your head and neck will follow. Most of the weight of your head is on the front, and this contributes to your forward movement as well.
You naturally lean forward to accommodate the heavier weight of your head on the forward part of the body. When left uncorrected over time, this can lead to kyphosis, forward head posture, and other problems.
How Chiropractors Correct Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture is a treatable condition. In most cases, it can be fixed and it does not require invasive surgery. In fact, many people can correct forward head posture simply with posture exercises, daily stretching, and changes in daily habits. Of course, these improvements do not happen overnight. A long-term commitment is required before significant benefits will be seen. We will give you the right guidance on what exercises should be done and if a chiropractic adjustment might help you.
A chiropractor can analyze your forward head posture to determine the best course of action. At Renew Chiropractic in Denver, Colorado, we use postural analysis to determine how to treat your forward head posture. We examine how your body is standing in its natural state. Then, we recommend specific exercises to get your body back in alignment. Doing these exercises a couple of times a day will correct the problem over time.
We hope our advice helps you to maintain a good posture. Schedule a free consultation with Renew Chiropractic today to discover relief from your forward head posture. We will provide the best chiropractic care in the Denver area.