Have you got the new iHunch?
Sorry tech fans, you don’t actually need to queue. It isn’t the latest Apple product.
However, according to Harvard professor of psychology, Amy Cuddy’s article in The New York Times it’s arguably as popular and certainly just as psychologically impactful.
The iHunch is just another name for what physiotherapists and anatomists are calling Forward Head Posture sometimes abbreviated as FHP.
Other names include turtleneck, text neck, reading neck, kyphosis and Dowager’s hump.
What Is Forward Head Posture (FHP)?
Forward head posture is as you can probably guess the forward tilting/protruding of the head.
Think Mr. Burns from “The Simpsons”.
This less optimal and less attractive look is not attributed to specifically one thing, but most commonly it is the combination of a bent neck, chin tilting downwards and shoulders rolling forwards and inwards.
The major culprit here is the many hours we spend busy hunched over our computers or mobile devices every day.
And if you are often exercising or doing weight training (which I strongly recommend) it might be that you are doing too much pressing or pushing movements making it even worse.
Perhaps you just straightened yourself up a bit when reading this.
Both surprising and scary fact about the forward head posture is that it not only has the potential to cause you pain, discomfort and increase the risk of injury but also affect your emotions.
As the article in the New York Times also mentions, there does seem to be a correlation between posture and our mental, emotional and physical well-being.
And if you are walking around like Mr. Burns or Hunchback/Quasimodo from Notre Dame then you will probably not feel at your best.
With that being said, let us get down to the burning question on your mind…
Can You Fix It?
The quick answer is yes, forward head posture is correctable.
There are a number of exercises, stretches and small ergonomic changes that have been proven to greatly improve and/or eliminate forward head posture.
But before I elaborate on that, you should know that the answer is not that simple.
A lot of people will claim to have quick or guaranteed fixes. But the truth is that your chances of full recovery and how long it will take directly depend on the severity of your issue.
In fact, correcting forward head posture can take up to several months using a combination of the stretching and strengthening exercises.
In addition to recovery through regular exercise and stretching, it’s important to note that truly correcting forward head posture in the long-term means learning preventative measures and understanding the causes of it in the first place.
Essentially, our heads become pulled forward when our pectorals (chest) muscles and sternocleidomastoid (neck) muscles become tightened– adding unnecessary strain on our spine.
To correct forward head posture, we have to stretch and strengthen those particular muscles using a variety of exercises (sometimes using weights) and free-stretching.
If you are willing to spend some money, you can make it easier for yourself.
There are different braces that you can wear, which can offer support and stimulate the use of your muscles.
You could also see a physiotherapist, chiropractor or massage therapists to help you out.
For some easy ergonomic fixes, you should make sure that your computer/laptop screen is in an eye-level height.
I like to use a laptop stand to bring up the screen to eye-level height.
This by itself will help prevent you from slouching, but obviously, it is better if you also try to consciously stop yourself from slouching.
It’s also important to consider that your forward head posture may indicate more pressing underlying issues like a severe calcium deficiency.
If you are in the best half of your life, then it may be a complication of osteoporosis. That is also curable, but for that, you need to see a professional.
After all, taking advice over the internet has its limits.
Your best bet to fix your forward head posture is a mixture of stretching and strengthening exercises, taking preventive measure and improving your ergonomics.
But for long-term success, you need to develop healthy postural habits when you work, read, walk, run, exercise etc.
Is Forward Head Posture Really That Bad?
Unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of having a bit of an unattractive slouch.
As mentioned, it has the potential of causing uncomfortableness and pain and increases the risk of injury.
It also might very well affect your mental/emotional state.
But if that is not enough motivation for you to start fixing your head, then here is a very long list from www.epainassist.com and reviewed by Dr. Pramod Kerkar about the common symptoms of forward head posture.
- Forward tilting of the head.
- Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, upper, lower and middle back.
- Rounded shoulders.
- Temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
- Teeth clenching.
- Decreased appetite.
- Pinched nerves.
- Decrease in overall height.
- Decrease in the range of motion.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Myofascial pain syndrome.
- Muscle spasms.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and arms.
- Tightness and soreness in the neck and chest muscles.
- Insomnia or poor sleep.
- Decrease in the athletic performance.
- Disc degeneration.
- Sleep apnea/mouth breathing.
- Facial pain (Trigeminal neuralgia)
NOTE: please be careful with self-diagnosis.
In addition to the terrifying long list of symptoms above, forward head posture has also been linked to depression. It has also been connected to low self-esteem.
It is believed that a lot of headaches are caused or at least partly caused by forward head posture.
Finally, for severe cases of forward head posture, it can lead to permanent curvature of the spine.
The Bottom Line
Forward head posture is a common problem that should be in anyone’s interest to fix.
Maybe you have got forward head posture but feel absolutely fine, and think I am great overestimating the issue.
Perhaps you are right.
But even if you feel fine now, it is likely that it won’t be the case in 5-10 years from now or longer.
Consider it an investment in a happier and more active old age.