By Logan Klahn LMT, BCTMB
As technology advances and we spend more time locked into devices and screens, it’s important to step back and remember what we’re doing to our bodies. Whether you’re reading this on a computer or mobile device, it is likely that your neck has moved away from its ideal posture. It’s so easy to do, we lean in to look at the screen or work for hours in a chair and start to slump. The body adapts so well that we hardly notice in the moment, but if you’re wondering why you have chronic neck and shoulder tension you might want to check your sitting posture.
In the clinic we call it forward head posture or FHP and it’s something we see quite often. More recently, with the wide spread popularity of smart phones, this posture has developed a second name, text neck syndrome.
There are many reasons to avoid a forward head posture, especially since the long term effects can be devastating to the structures of the neck. Listed below are some of the side effects of a forward head posture.
- Muscle Strain and Trigger Point Activity 
- Decreased Range of Motion in the Neck and Shoulders 
- Tension and Cervicogenic Headaches 
- Flattening of the Cervical Spine Causing Disc Compression and Arthritis 
- Disc Herniations and Pinched Nerves 
- Decreases in Lung Capacity and Respiratory Muscle Activity 
As you can see from the list above, a chronic forward head posture is something to avoid. It can wreak havoc on the cervical spine and start to effect the other systems of the body like respiration. The good news is that you can avoid all the pain and dysfunction associated with FHP by performing postural breaks throughout the day. If you’re working in an office setting or sitting for hours at a time, it is important to take small breaks and let the body reset. This can be as simple as standing up and walking around your chair. It doesn’t take much, but it’s incredibly important if you’re sitting for hours at a time. Below is a routine you can perform throughout the day to help rest your posture and avoid neck dysfunction.
- Chin Tucks
- Place two fingers on the chin
- Retract the neck by tucking the chin towards the chest
- You should end up with a double chin if you’re doing it right
- Hold this retracted position for 10 seconds
- Bruegger’s Relief Position
- Get out of the chair
- Externally rotate the arms
- Pull the scapula back and down
- Retract the Neck
- Hold this position and perform 5 deep breaths
- Overhead Reaching
- Raise both arms overhead
- Take one arm at a time and try to reach for the sky
- Alternate arms reaching up for 20 seconds
Ideally you would want to get up every 20 minutes and perform the routine. A timer can easily be set on your phone or computer to remind you. The routine literally takes less than a minute to perform and can prevent a host of cervical dysfunction. Another great option is to come see the massage therapists at East Wind. We can manually massage, and stretch specific muscles to help with FHP. If you’re already experiencing symptoms associated with forward head posture and want advice that’s more specific to your case, please schedule an appointment. The above exercises are not designed for everyone, if you start to experience pain while performing them, stop and call your health care provider. Remember that the musculoskeletal symptoms we experience are the manifestations of our movements, habits, and postures. Your symptoms won’t change unless you change.
- Gore DR, Sepic SB, Gardner GM. Roentgenographic findings of the cervical spine in asymptomatic people. Spine 1986; 6:591-694
- Mayo Clinic Health Letter volume 18 #3, March 2000