This type of posture can make one look unattractive and cause neck pain, upper back pain, along with tension-type headaches, as well as other symptoms (more below).
The good news is with a few simple exercises, posture awareness and workstation modifications and you can start correcting this posture!
It’s simple – do a little test…
- Stand with your back towards a wall with your heels positioned shoulder width apart
- Press your buttocks against the wall and ensure that your shoulder blades are in contact with the wall.
**Squeezing your shoulder blades together can help you get your shoulders into a more neutral position and aligned with the wall.
- Now, check your head position – is the back of your head touching the wall?
- If it’s not, you have forward head posture and should do your best to correct it.
What is Forward Head/Neck Posture?
Forward head posture, sometimes called “Scholar’s Neck”, “Text Neck”, “Wearsie Neck”,”or “Reading Neck”, refers to a posture where the head appears to be positioned in front of the body.
Technically speaking, forward head posture means that the skull is leaning forwards, more than an inch, over the atlas (which is the first vertebrae in your neck).
So what’s the problem with this posture? A lot, and it’s pretty complicated.
It doesn’t stop there… forward head posture doesn’t just affect the neck and shoulders; the center of gravity of your entire body is also altered, which affects your torso and every joint in your body.
Your body tries to adapt to these positional changes be altering the balance control mechanisms of the body, which actually decreases your ability to balance when engaging in different activities throughout the day, and increases your risk of injury.
Forward Head Posture Symptoms:
- Muscle tightness
- Kyphosis (Excessive rounded shoulders)
- Neck tightness/pain
- Dowager’s Hump
- Back pain
- Muscle spasms
- Restricted breathing
- Poor Balance
- Headaches and migraines
- Trigger Points
- Chronic fatigue
- Numbness and tingling of the arms and hands
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain
FHP Can Lead To:
- Tension Headaches
- Osteoporosis (and related fractures)
- Poor shoulder mobility
- Cervical (Neck) spine arthritis
- Shoulder blade pain
- Bulging Discs
- Herniated Discs
What causes Forward Head Posture?
Forward head posture is the result of a variety of factors, including:
- In 2 words: “poor posture”
- Weakness of your neck muscles
- Previous neck strains or sprains
- Sleeping with your head elevated too high on pillows
- Frequently sleeping on a sofa with your head propped on the arm rest
- Extended computer use
- Extended cellphone use (“Text neck”)
- Prolonged driving
- Incorrect breathing habits
- Carrying heavy backpacks
- Participating in sports that involve the dominant use of one side of the body (i.e. golf, tennis, hockey, baseball, etc.)
- Certain professions are more at risk due to repetitive movements of the body (i.e. hair stylists, massage therapists, writers, computer programmers, painters, etc.)
Forward head posture involves an imbalance of muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Simple exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles around the neck, back and shoulders proved to be effective at improving this posture.
5 Forward Head Posture Exercises
Practicing good posture while performing your daily activities, combined with stretching and strengthening the muscles involved in forward head posture, can put you on the right path towards correcting this postural abnormality.
1. Chin Tucks Exercise
This exercise will activate and strengthen your deep cervical muscles (front of the neck muscles).
- Place 2 fingers at the bottom of your chin.
- Gently tuck your chin in and retract your head backwards. At the same time, use your fingers to keep the chin tucked in the entire time.
- Hold the end position for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Relax your neck for a moment (Let the neck come fwd).
- Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
** You should feel like the back of your neck is lengthening or “pulling up”, and there will be packing in front of your neck.
2. Neck Flexion (Suboccipital Stretch)
This will stretch the back of your neck muscles including the Suboccipital muscles.
- First, tuck your chin in using 2 fingers of one hand.
- Place your other hand on the back of your head and apply a gentle force down as you pull your head towards your chest.
- When you feel a stretch at the back of your neck, hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat this stretch 3 times.
** Keep your chin tucked as you do this stretch.
3. One Arm Pec Stretch – At A Wall (Do Both Sides)
This will stretch out the chest area which can be tight and pull the neck into a bad posture. Releasing the pecs will allow you to be in a better posture and can alleviate some of the pain.
- Come close to a wall and stretch one arm behind you with the palm on the wall.
- Pull in your stomach (do not arch your back)
- Now lean forward and slightly away from the extended arm.
- Feel the stretch in your chest area.
- Hold for 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side
* Make sure you’re not just stretching you shoulder, but also the chest. Tweak the angle of your position to get the chest muscles.
4. Thoracic Spine Foam Rolling
This is great way to loosen up the upper back area.
- Lie on your back, with your hands placed behind your head, and a foam roller placed under your upper-back.
- Start to slowly roll up and down beginning at your mid-back and moving towards the top of your shoulders.
- Keep your core tight and use your legs to roll.
- Don’t rush, do nice and slow rolls.
5. Upper Trapezius Stretch
This will stretch out the neck and upper back muscles (Scalene & Upper Trapezius) which can get very tight on individuals with this forward neck syndrome.
- Start either in a standing or seated position.
- Place one of your hands on the opposite side of your head and tuck the other hand behind your back.
- Now bring the head down towards your shoulder.
- Use the hand on top to press your head down – to get a deeper stretch (Not too hard).
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and do both sides
Get More Details & Exercises In This Video:
Lastly, Proper Ergonomics
If you sit at a computer for extended periods of time, the single most important thing you can do to improve your workstation is to ensure that your computer monitor is positioned properly to allow your neck to remain in a neutral and relaxed position while you work.
- Ensure that the top third of your screen is at eye level
- Your monitor should be between 18 and 24 inches away from your face
**An improperly placed monitor results in straining of your neck and even slouching forward, which will contribute to your forward head position. Check out how to sit properly at a desk here.
Any questions? Leave a comment below
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Sources: Kage V, Patel N, Pai M. To compare the effects of deep neck flexors strengthening exercise and McKenzie neck exercise in subjects with forward neck posture: a randomised clinical trial. International Journal of Physiotherapy and Research. 2016;4(2):1451-1458. doi:10.16965/ijpr.2016.117
 Griegel-Morris P, Larson K, Mueller-Klaus K, Oatis C. Incidence of Common Postural Abnormalities in the Cervical, Shoulder, and Thoracic Regions and Their Association with Pain in Two Age Groups of Healthy Subjects. Phys Ther. 1992;72(6):425-431. doi:10.1093/ptj/72.6.425
 Lee J. Effects of forward head posture on static and dynamic balance control. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016;28(1):274-277. doi:10.1589/jpts.28.274
Licensed chiropractor, DC (Owner of Forme Clinic, Stoney Creek, ON, L8G 1B9)
Dr. Shaina McQuilkie graduated from Brock University in 2004 with a Bachelor of Kinesiology (Honours). She then attended D’Youville College, in Buffalo, New York and obtained her Doctorate of Chiropractic Degree in 2008. After graduating, Dr. McQuilkie practiced in a multi-disciplinary healthcare facility based in Hamilton, Ontario gaining experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal injuries.