Forward head posture is a common postural dysfunction today. It occurs when the head is habitually held in front of the body’s midline so that its weight is not properly balanced over the spine and shoulders.
The body works best when it is aligned. The muscles of the neck as well as the cervical spine, with its joints and discs, are designed to support the weight of the head, but only when it is centered over the shoulders. When the head moves forward, the pressure exerted on the spine, and the shoulder and neck muscles increases drastically as they have to work harder to hold the head up.
Forward head posture results in and is perpetuated by a muscle imbalance. How does it all start? Modern culture involves a lot of sitting. We sit in school, in the office, in front of the TV and when commuting. It is typical, particularly when driving, looking at a computer screen or using a small electronic device, to crane your head forward to bring it closer to what you’re looking at. Many people do this unconsciously (you’re likely doing it right now). After a length of time, the body adapts to this posture. Muscles in the upper back become overstretched and weak, while muscles in the chest become short and tight. The upper trapezius, the portion of the muscle in the neck, can become chronically tight from working overtime to hold the head upright when in a forward position. The brain learns this pattern of tension and automatically sends signals for the pectorals and upper trapezius to contract, and the upper back and shoulders are pulled forward.
Forward head may also be caused by an unbalanced workout routine. Gym buffs who spend more time on their chests than their upper backs often end up with the postural dysfunction.
The chronic muscle tension associated with forward head can lead to the development of knots and spasms. It also puts the spine at risk, since the joints and discs of the cervical spine become compressed as vertebral angles change.
Correcting Forward Head Posture
To restore the head to proper alignment, a two-pronged approach works best. First, correct muscle imbalances. Second, increase posture awareness and use ergonomic aides, if necessary, to encourage proper posture.