Your head- It’s heavy and important
Chiropractors have long advocated for good posture.
It just seemed to make sense to us that our modern lifestyle and work habits are not helping our health. Research is finally catching up to explaining how poor neck posture can adversely affect your health.
Let’s consider your head. It’s pretty heavy.
In a average adult your head weights approximately 6% of your body weight (1) so that’s nearly 5kg for yours truly or 11 pounds for my Okinawa clients :). Now imagine if you dangle an 11 pound bowling ball hunched over a computer screen. Just keeping your head up requires huge workloads on muscles really only setup for firing for few seconds. For every inch the head goes forward the stress on our muscles builds significantly.
A great study recently published in the International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health reviewed 16 previously published studies and looked at the effect of forward head carriage on a very of health metrics.
What they found was really interesting.
Effects of poor head posture
- The effect on your respiration-Forward head carriage was associated with lower lung volumes. It’s thought that the posture posture limits how much how lower ribs can move during inspiration. This makes our accessory muscles work harder and means we are not breathing deeply or efficiently.
2. Effect on muscle tone- Not surprisingly our neck extensors become short and week which is often a trigger for headaches. Other imbalances and areas of tension where found in accessory muscles once you start to carry your head to far forward.
3. Proprioception- This is our bodies ability to know where it is space just from accessing it’s own movement and tension. Imagine you close your eyes and try to touch your nose. The ability to do this comes from your brain able to interpret the amount of movement in your muscles and tension on joints and ligaments. People with forward head carriage also had poor proprioception. As your posture gets worse you become let aware of your body .
4. Balance: Subjects with forward head carriage also had poor static balance. If you look at a ballet dancer or athlete they also have great upright posture. This is more than just looking good but also aids their ability to hold difficult poses.
5. Neck pain: One study looked at the question of ” Is forward head carriage a good predictor of neck pain ” and it turns out it is. The more your head starts to be forward of your centre line, the more likely you are to report higher pain levels. If you are experience chronic neck pain it’s really worth having your posture assessed for forward head carriage and starting an active rehab program to address this.
The article also makes a great point about our generation.
Normal may be not be correct anymore. In fact less than 10% of subjects had neck posture that was considered ” ideal ” (1) So what’s happening here really is a generational problem. As we all grow up with computer workstations and Iphones being the new normal our posture is suffering.
What to do about it
Fortunately it’s not too hard to address the effects of forward head carriage.
- Get adjusted !– I know this sounds a bit self serving but if you have an area of the spine that has been restricted for some time a short course of adjusting is still is the fastest way to get some movement back and allow you streamline the rehab process. But adjustments won’t fix the underlying problem nor are they are a substitute for an active care approach . That’s going to take some work on your part.
2. Address your work posture. I have been a big fan of the sitting standing workstations and whilst there are some great models around you can also build your own with simple materials. Be prepared to think creative and use what you find at 2nd stores. An interesting example below
3. Aim for 40 minutes walking each and everyday. You can split this up into 2 20 minute sessions if you like.
This topic has been covered in more detail here
4. Stretch- The real causes of forward head carriage is rounded shoulders. As you shoulders roll forward your pecs and other anterior muscles become short and weak. We need open these back up. The 3 best exercises for this are the brugger self stretch, the chin tuck and the wall angels.
The Brugger self stretch
Chin Tuck exercise
These exercises give a really good stretch out of our tight anterior neck muscles.
A great exercises to open up the chest and stretch tight pecs
Here you want to look at building more strength in the muscles that pull our shoulders back. We are thinking things like rowing, seated row gym press and external rotation of the shoulder with free weights.
If you need anymore reason to consider improving your neck posture I hope the article mentioned may stimulate you further into action.
If would like to discuss this article further either down in Sunabe Okinawa or Niseko with an english speaking chiropractor ( well Australian anyway) feel free to book online at
- The impact of the position of the head on the functioning of the human body: a systematic review
Elżbieta Szczygieł 1, Natalia Fudacz 1, Joanna Golec 1, Edward Golec