Forward head posture

Weight of the headHave you ever looked at yourself in the mirror to see how your head is actually perched on top of your spine?   Do you feel as though you are greeting people with your nose projected forward?  Have you looked at the driver beside you?  Are they driving with their head tilted up looking out of the bottom of their eyes?   When you’re sitting at your work desk is your nose in the air?  Are you looking out of the bottom of your glasses?  Are you leaning in towards your computer?    These are examples of bad posture which can affect your health.   We call this “forward head posture”.

Your head can weight anywhere from 8 – 15 lbs.  It is balanced on the top of your spine and     for every inch forward that it sits in a bad posture the weight of the head increases.

What does this mean to us?  This means that the muscles at the back of your head and neck are constantly being pulled and strained with this extra weight.   What may develop, if this happens continually over a period of time, are symptoms such as a constant burning on the back of the upper shoulders right near your shoulder blades, headaches and or migraines, jaw pain, a pain in the neck or pains that develop in the mid and lower back.   You will have restrictions in certain neck, jaw or shoulder movements such as being able to shoulder check when driving a car or being able to look down without pain.   Over time you will develop posture issues in other areas as the body tries to compensate.

Headaches and migraines can be caused by trigger points in the muscles when the head is situated too far forward from its axis point.   Trigger points are, in layman’s terms, knots in the muscles that when compressed or pressure is put on them, refer pain in a predictable pattern to somewhere else on the body.  The compression or pressure can be from a manual pressure or pressure caused when the muscle is stretched.  The trigger point in the muscle is then compressed.

There are 4 small muscles at the very base of the skull and when your posture is altered in a forward head position, these muscles become short.  For example, if you were to hold your arm with your elbow bent for a period of weeks, you would eventually not be able to straighten your arm without pain.  The muscles of the arm would have adapted to this posture and become shorter.  You would most likely have developed trigger points in the muscles as well which would be referring pain elsewhere.

The 4 small muscles at the base of the skull are called sub occipital muscles and if they develop trigger points you may get a headache deep in the skull that moves towards the eyes.

Self Help Tip:

  1. Sit in a slouched position and see how far your head moves forward.  Have someone take a picture of you from the side.  Then imagine a steel rod being placed on your stomach from your pubic bone to your breast bone keeping your torso tall.  (do not pull your shoulders back, just let them relax)  Now take another picture from the side and see if the position of your head has changed.

This posture may tire out your back very quickly so try to hold this position for one minute every hour and slowly increase the length of time when your body is strong enough to keep it there.