I started watching Ozark on Netflix and I am really enjoying it but one of the things I have noticed is what terrible forward head posture Jason Bateman has. I actually find myself thinking “I hope he is standing like that to be in character and not because that is his normal posture”. Unfortunately, forward head posture is becoming more and more common. Perhaps you have seen the following graphic which illustrates how modern technology is changing our bodies.
How do you know if you have forward head posture? One of the easiest ways to assess your posture is to stand with your back and shoulders against a wall (your feet can be about 6 inches away from the wall) and notice if the back of your head touches the wall. If you have to arch your back or look skyward to get your head to touch then you have forward head. Another way to see if you have forward head is to have someone take a picture of you from the side and see if your ears are aligned over your shoulders.
Forward head posture leads to muscle imbalances in the neck. The deep neck flexors in the front of the neck such as the longus colli and longus capitis become weak, while the muscles in the back of the neck such as the sub-occipitals (base of skull), sternocleidomastoid (side of neck), levator scapulae (neck to shoulder blade), upper traps and scalenes become tight, dense and fibrotic. Initially the symptoms of forward head posture will be muscle tightness, headaches, back and neck pain, excessively rounded shoulders, and numbness or tingling in the arms and hands. If posture is not corrected this can progress to osteoporosis, poor shoulder mobility, cervical arthritis, shoulder blade pain and bulging or herniated disks. Correcting forward head posture is important for everyone since it is caused by many common things such as poor posture, elevating the head too high while sleeping, extended computer and cell phone use, long periods of driving or carrying heavy items.
The best way to prevent forward head posture is through a program of daily stretching, along with adding exercises that emphasize pulling to your exercise routine. Take a short break from being hunched over the computer and perform some chin tucks against a wall.
This exercise can be progressed to a quadruped chin tuck, which works against gravity to build the muscles in the front of the neck. I also like to do wall angels (standing, or seated cross-legged against a wall for an additional challenge) as a quick break while working. Most importantly, just get up and move around every hour or so to help loosen up your muscles.
There are many different stretches that help counteract forward head. Examples of these include the doorway stretch, upper trap stretch, Bruggers Relief Pose and the wall lat stretch with stabilization. You can add these stretches throughout the day or include them in your warmup or cool-down routine.
Upper Trap Stretch
Brugger's Relief Pose
Wall Lat Stretch with Stabilization
When you are working out it is important to include exercises that emphasize pulling over pushing. Adding some band pull-aparts or around the worlds to your warmup is a good practice.
Balancing out chest presses with exercises like cable face pulls also helps to improve posture. Doing a side-lying extension rotation during your warmup is a great way to add some thoracic mobility and help with posture.
Emphasizing these movements over pushing ones (in a 2:1 ration if possible) is a great way to radically improve forward head. These exercises also make great “filler” while you are catching your breath from more strenuous work.
Posture is one of the primary things I address in my programs. If you notice you are have forward head posture give me a call and we will develop an exercise program that help reverse it. And if you happen to know Jason Bateman give him my number so I can help him!