When we think of our posture, most of us think of our back and shoulders. But did you know that you can also have poor head posture – and that this can lead to chronic neck pain and chronic headaches?
What Does Proper Posture Look Like?
You can tell if your head posture is correct by looking in a mirror and determining whether your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles are all aligned in the same vertical line. Your head should sit directly above your neck and shoulders – not leaning slightly forward, backward, or to the side.
What Is Forward Head Carriage?
Forward head carriage, also known as anterior head carriage, is simplest terms is the “bad” head posture. Forward head carriage occurs when we carry our head slightly forward, appearing like we are slouching or leaning forward. When you do not have proper head posture, your ears will align more with your chest than they will with your shoulders and your head will rest forward and ahead of your shoulders rather than directly above your neck and shoulders.
Why Does Poor Head Posture Cause Neck Pain and Headaches?
Because your head and shoulders are connected, when your head is carried forward your shoulders will also roll forward adding unnecessary weight. For every inch that your head is carried forward it adds 10 lbs. of weight that is exerted onto your neck, joints, muscles, and ligaments. This extra weight on our necks forces our muscles to have to work harder in order to continue to hold our head up. The more stress we place on our neck, joints, muscles, and ligaments, the more neck pain and headaches we will begin to experience.
There are many symptoms that we may experience which can indicate we have poor head posture including:
- Tension headaches or band-like headaches that are dull and located in the temples or forehead
- The feeling of “knots” or “rocks” in the back of your neck and shoulders
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Tightness specifically located in your chest and upper back
- All-over body aches and tightness
- The feeling of numbness in your arms
- A continuous feeling of needing to roll your shoulders or stretch or “crack” your neck
What Causes Poor Head Posture?
Posture, whether good or poor, is something we develop over time. And because it takes a long time to develop our posture habits, it can also take a long time to change those habits. Maintaining good posture often requires a conscious effort to do so. There are many different things we could be doing that could cause us to develop poor head posture including:
- Using a mobile device such as a tablet or cellphone (this is also known as “text neck”)
- Looking down while reading a book or working on a computer
- Prolonged sitting in one position
- Sitting with your shoulders rounded and your back hunched over
- Driving with your head more than 5 to 8 cm away from the headrest
- Carrying a backpack, bag, or purse that is too heavy or is over one shoulder only
What Can Be Done To Correct Poor Head Posture?
First and foremost you should contact an experienced and licensed chiropractor (like us!) to assist with the treatment of your neck pain and headaches. Receiving regular chiropractic adjustments and care has been shown to be effective in reversing the damage of forward head carriage, promote proper head posture, alleviate pain, and prevent further damage of the neck and spine.
Additional steps you can take to help correct poor head posture include:
- Ask your chiropractor about head and neck exercises you can do to re-balance your posture. Make sure your chiropractor reviews these exercises with you to ensure you are performing them properly.
- Getting up to stretch every 15-20 minutes if you work primarily sitting at a desk or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
- Make sure your computer screen is level with your eyes and about two feet away from your face so you don’t have to lean forward to see it.
- Minimize the amount of time you spend on activities that promote poor head posture – such as watching television, playing video games, and using mobile devices.
- If you use a backpack, make sure to pack the heaviest items towards the back and lighter items towards the front. Also make sure you are carrying the backpack evenly across both shoulders to properly distribute the weight.
- Carry a purse across your body to evenly distribute the weight.
- Consciously focus on your posture – making sure that your sitting and standing up in a straight position with your head in an upright position directly above your neck and shoulders.
- Use a body pillow to promote proper spinal support and posture while sleeping at night.