Good Posture Begins With Fixing Forward Head Posture

November 18, 2018

A young man with neck pain sitting in front of laptop computer
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Since the 1980s, technological advancements have made computers an essential part of our daily lives, both at home and in the workplace. Now, with the rise of mobile technology, smartphones offer us unparalleled access to the world online — any time, any place.

But now, the physiological problems caused by overuse of mobile technology and other factors are becoming more mainstream. Forward head posture, which is associated with neck pain, headaches and even balance problems, is becoming increasingly common as people of all ages spend more time on their smartphones and computers. Fortunately, it's possible to retrain your body to achieve good posture while avoiding potential complications.

FHP: Cause and Effect

Forward head posture, or FHP, describes the specific placement of your head in relation to your shoulders and chest. If you have FHP, your head shifts forward over the trunk of your body while your shoulders and upper body shift backward to compensate. This also moves your center of gravity.

In many cases, FHP results from overuse of smartphones and computers, both at home and in the workplace. Other factors may lead to the development of this type of poor posture, such as sleeping with your head too high on a pillow or having weak back and neck muscles.

The International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health points to this type of posture in the workplace as a cause of significant neck pain. But FHP is associated with a variety of health problems, according to the American Posture Institute, including:

  • Balance problems
  • Tension headaches
  • Inflammation of your spine
  • Posture imbalances

Correcting FHP and Reducing Health Risks

Fortunately, research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science shows that it's possible to achieve good posture through the use of certain exercises and stretching techniques, many of which can be performed right at your desk. Before beginning any exercises to correct FHP, it's a good idea to check with your physician or physical therapist to make sure you stay as safe as possible.

Retraction of the neck

Sit or stand as straight as possible, then fix your eyes on an object some distance away from you. While focusing on the object, move your head backward in space, drawing your eyes away from the object. Retract or move your head backward, as much as you can while not causing pain. Then, relax, allowing your head to come forward again. After taking a short break, try retracting your neck again, this time moving a little past the point at which you first stopped. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times in a row.

Extension of the neck

Extension exercises naturally follow retraction exercises. After retracting your neck, focus your gaze up toward the ceiling, lifting your chin as you do so. Hold for a moment, then lower your chin and relax your neck muscles. This type of exercise can be incorporated directly with retraction exercises to help you achieve better posture.

Chin tucks

Chin tucks can be performed anywhere. To perform a chin tuck, simply move your chin toward your chest until you feel a nonpainful stretch in the back of your neck. Hold this position for about five seconds, then release. You can repeat this exercise 10 times.

Performing these types of exercises is key to maintaining good posture and reducing your risk of developing FHP. Your doctor or physical therapist can help you explore other exercises and stretches to further benefit you.

You don't have to live with FHP forever, and you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing this condition, even if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer or smart phone. By taking steps to achieve good posture, you can help prevent other complications, such as spinal inflammation, that can lead to serious consequences later in life.

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