Are you wondering what is bad about looking like Quasimodo or Mr. Burns from “The Simsons” – a.k.a. having a forward head posture?
This unattractive posture is so common that it is has a lot of nicknames including text neck, nerd neck, turtle neck or my favorite iHunch.
It is characterized by having the head in a constant forward-leaning or tilting position which not only looks unattractive but also:
puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your spine.
Quantifying The Unnecessary Stress On Your Spine
If you are currently reading this from your phone, chances are that you are flexing your neck downwards.
Researchers estimate that most people spend on average two hours a day leaning over their mobile phones or tablets. That is an alarming number that doesn’t even include things like hunching over a laptop or book!
All this forward head leaning and rounding of the spine creates a tremendous amount of tension. To make it clear how much, here is an interesting way to explain it using the principle of the lever.
The principle of the lever states that the farther away the force that is pushing down is, the more the force is amplified.
An adult head weighs around 4-5 kg on average and when the head is in a normal position the “load” you are carrying is equal to that.
As your head leans forward and the angle between head and spine increases so does the added stress on the spine which can be described like this:
- At the angle of 15 degrees the load is equivalent to 12 kg / 26 lbs😱
- At the angle of 30 degrees the load is equivalent to 18 kg / 40 lbs😱
- At the angle of 45 degrees the load is equivalent to 22 kg / 48 lbs😱
- At the angle of 60 degrees the load is equivalent to 27 kg / 60 lbs😱
Given enough time this amount of tension can lead to permanent physical changes putting you at risk of injury and pain.
Is Forward Head Posture Really That Bad?
Forward head posture does not only have the potential to cause you pain, discomfort and increase the risk of injury but it might also affect your emotions and mental health.
A study done in 2014 took a look at how sitting posture affected the tendency to recall negative things among depressed individuals. Slouching people recalled more negatives words about themselves than positive. For those who sat upright, there was no bias.
Here is a very long list of common symptoms of having a forward head posture from epainassist.com and reviewed by Dr. Pramod Kerkar.
- 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.
- A decrease in athletic performance.
- Disc degeneration.
- Sleep apnea/mouth breathing.
- Facial pain (Trigeminal neuralgia)
Why Do We Get A Forward Head Posture?
Almost all of us spend a big portion of our waking hours sitting down focusing on things in front of us, e.g. a computer screen, smartphone, television or book. You could also be driving or riding a bike.
After a while, the muscles that help stabilize and keep your spine and head upright fatigues. Once that occurs we tend to slouch and let the spine take the heavy lifting. It feels very relaxing at first but it leaves you with a sore neck and upper back after a while. In the long run it gives rise to many issues as listed above.
If you are often exercising or doing weight training (which I strongly recommend) you could be further aggravating the issue if you are doing too many pressing or pushing movements.
Your Posture Adapts
You can think about your posture as a reflection of the kind of position you put your body in most of the time.
In other words, your posture adapts and if you slouch every day that is exactly the kind of posture you will get – a slouching posture – and it will become tough sitting in any other way.
Slouching will result in some muscles becoming short and tight, while others become long and overstretched. In turn, this affects your posture pulling it excessively in the direction of your tight musculature.
Forward head posture is an adaptation that you do not want because it can cause a lot of problems for the well-being of your body.
How To Fix It!
And now to the burning question that is on your mind…
There are many things you can do to improve your head posture and posture in general. You want to focus on these three things:
- Stretch and strengthen
As I mentioned above, your posture adapts over time and have a forward head posture will lead to tight muscles in the front of your neck (extensors) and overstretched muscles in the back (flexors).
Stretching and strengthening those muscles will help. Check out some exercises here.
However, while this is a great start you won’t get far if you are still oblivious of what good posture feels and looks like.
You have to change and improve your posture while working at a desk, enjoying a movie on the couch, or browsing Facebook on your phone etc.
Finally, if your surroundings make it difficult or even impossible to maintain good posture chances are that you simply won’t be able to do it.
Where To Go From Here
Forward head posture is a common issue in today’s technology-driven world and it brings with it a lot of issues. The good news is that it is reversable. Focus on the three things I mentioned above