“Where you have your head?” is a common question for moms around the world, which is still in place. This is because the head weighs about 4 kilograms and if it is not in place, it can cause problems, and quite a few of them. This is a blog about forward head posture (FHP); how and why it develops and how to get rid of it.
In recent years, there has been great progress in technology and with it a big step backwards in terms of quantity and quality of movement. From 2005 to 2019, the number of households with a computer jumped from 27.3% to 49.7%. Although phones are not included here, it is self-evident why we have called the excessive tilting of the head forward iPosture.
In the case of injuries, the most important thing is to know the mechanism of these, so I will also start this record on forward head posture with a brief introduction of what can affect the position of our body and how you can help yourself in everyday life.
Given that we are a generation of computers, I will focus most on this topic, as it has a strong impact on the position of the spine. A typical office worker spends between 4 and 6 hours a day at the computer, if we add time to this at home, it can only quickly close to 8 hours. This means that we are in a forced posture behind the computer for longer than in a relaxing posture during sleep. Let me mention here that poor posture, breathing, muscle strength, stress and habits also affect the quality of sleep, which can push this ratio even further into the red. So, the importance of seating ergonomics. It sounds challenging, but it’s completely easy.
- Where do I have the screen and what is its quality.
- Where do I have a mouse / keyboard and what is its quality.
- In what space I work.
- How I sit / stand.
- Active rest.
We started with the simplest point, as setting the screen at eye level to a suitable distance is not difficult. Also pay attention to the fact that the light is sufficient and the light is as neutral as possible so as not to disturb the eyes.
The mouse and keyboard are second on the list. Amazon sells endless high-quality, ergonomic computer mice that won’t exceed your budget. The point is that a quality mouse can relieve the wrist, which relieves the elbow, relieves the shoulder, etc. The same goes for the keyboard.
What kind of space I work in is a point that you usually find hard to change, but you can try to take advantage of the given. Enough light on the screen and work surface, air and add some green plants that clean the air and relax the eyes.
We have come to a point where all too many people are losing an incredible number of hours and nerves. Office chair. The main rule is to support the natural curves of the spine and after several hours of sitting it is not uncomfortable, hard or too soft. It has to be swivel but still stable enough that you don’t have to chase balance all the time, the backrest and seat are adjustable in inclination, and the armrest and headrest are a big plus. Try to choose airy and quality materials and do not skimp on the chair. A quality chair can serve you for many years and if you calculate its amount per day or quality of life, this is completely negligible. However, it is not necessary for me to talk here about thousands or even hundreds of euros. If it ticks all the points it is good. It’s great if you can arrange a trial period with the seller, as it’s hard to test the chair well in the store.
The most important point, however, are active breaks. If all the previous points suck, you can do a lot with active breaks. When to implement them and how? Some recommend every 30 minutes, others every hour, and I usually suggest 1.5 hours or after feeling. Why? Because 1.5 hours is the average period when we humans can still be highly productive and concentrated. You break the drop in motivation perfectly with an active break, and at the same time you do something good for yourself. What to do during an active break? You have a couple of suggestions below.
- Take a walk. Walking is a great change of activity, but at the same time it is not too intense and does not require much space. Go to the toilet and fill the bottle with water. It takes you 5 minutes.
- Stretching the fascia. What is the best thing to do in the morning? To stretch well. This is a classic example of stretching fascia that runs virtually across the body and connects multiple muscles together. This relaxes surface tension and nerve connections so well. It takes you 1 minute.
- Target stretching and strengthening. To take care of cramped and stretched muscles, you need to know which ones are most affected. The hind thigh muscles, the hip flexors and the muscles on the front of the torso are shortened mainly. The muscles of the upper back are stretched. The four figures below show examples of stretching and strengthening of the mentioned structures.
Poor head positions, however, are not only caused by poor posture and holding in uncomfortable positions. Since FHP can be a cause and a consequence, we should also mention in connection with iPosture the incorrect performance of exercises in the gym, lack of breathing and problems with the jaw joint.
Improper performance of exercises in the gym is a self-evident problem. Here I am talking about the performance itself as well as the excessive number of repetitions and exhaustion of the nervous system, the inappropriate weight for our abilities and the imbalance of the muscles on all sides of the joints. The best solution here is to find professional staff.
Breathing is a very extensive area to which we will dedicate the entire blog in the future. This time, let me just mention that the role of breathing is performed by more than 15 muscles, the most important of which is the diaphragm. The expansion of the thorax takes place in all directions and begins with a movement in the abdominal area. You can check your breathing quality with a simple square exercise. You inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds and hold again for 4 seconds. You repeat it all four times; are you tired?
I leave the jaw and bite and all the related mistakes to experts in this field, but I can still say that in recent years we have noticed interest in the interdisciplinary cooperation of posture and dentistry experts. Since a person gets the most information through the feet, jaw and eyes, it makes sense to pay proper attention to the facial muscles. Poor head posture can develop due to poor head posture (and vice versa, of course). I recommend GLOWINFACE YOGA for this area. Proper tension, knowledge of how to relax the face and the balance of the facial muscles have a great influence on posture and balance.
When I’m already on topic of balance. An interesting fact is that the position of the head influences almost all balance factors in the studies. People with poor posture lost their balance earlier and more intensely and found it harder to maintain. This greatly increases the possibility of falls, which is a problem especially in the elderly population. At this point, it is necessary to think about the future. A soldier trains to fight, even if it never happens.
The problems I described above can be called Upper cross syndrome in one phrase. It is basically an X connection between the front and back of the shoulder girdle and lets us know which muscles need relaxation and which strengthening in iPosture.
Roughly speaking, it goes like this:
Muscles that are shortened:
- The upper fibers of the trapezius muscle.
- Levator scapulae.
- Large and small pectoral muscle.
- Occipital muscles.
Muscles that are lengthened:
- Middle and lower trapezius muscle fibers.
- Large rhomboid muscle.
- Cervical flexors.
- Anterior serratus muscle (conditional).
Tightened muscles need massage (relaxation) and stretching, while extended muscles need massage (relaxation) and strengthening. But before you start practicing, check what is right for you and what is not.
How do you test the upper part of the trapezius muscle? You do a double chin, tilt your head to the side, and push your shoulders down. Do you feel a blockage or tearing? Make a tick.
How do you test levator scapulae? You do a double chin, tilt your head to the side, look to the side, and push your shoulders down. Do you feel a blockage or tearing? Tick again. Of course, you also check both muscles for sensitive points where you can self-massage.
The easiest way to check the entire fibers of the pectoralis major muscle is to lie on your back and fix the lumbar spine. Then you rotate your arms in an external rotation and draw a snow angel. Throughout the entire range of motion, the arms should be parallel to the ground.
You check the small pectoral muscle by lying on your back, the partner observes the distance between the bones at the top of the shoulder and the ground. If it is bigger than 2.5 cm, we can suspect shortened muscles. Beware, it is possible that only one side is short! In this case, one side will be higher than the other.
Finally, you check the mobility of the broad back muscle and basic movement patterns, which are usually impaired due to poor balance, mobility and other problems that accompany FHP.
Exercises to restore order in the upper torso follow as follows:
- Stretching the cervical spine lying down. This stretching affects the suboccipital muscles and cervical flexors. 65% of people who have too much tension (presence of trigger points) report more frequent and severe headaches. You lie on your back and make a double chin. You then simply push your ears towards the ground, which will flatten your cervical spine. If the situation is too severe and the situation is too uncomfortable, you can put your head on a pillow.
- Stretch the levator scapulae very nicely just as we tested its length. If you add a raise of the arm above the head at the same time, the exercise will be even more effective, as it will rotate the shoulder blade outwards.
- Stretch the small and large pectoral muscles by taking a towel or a stick, which you hold so wide that you can bring your arms fully extended from the front of the torso to the back. The first of all exercises to pay attention to the quality of performance, which includes pace, breathing and self-awareness.
- The middle and lower fibers of the trapezius muscle and the rhomboid muscle will be strengthened very effectively and quickly with proper rowing movements. The variations are endless and the one in the picture is showing rowing on the TRX, which is one of the most common and easy. Think about what your elbows are doing all the time and forget about your wrists. You pull your shoulders together and down at the elbow you aim for a 90-degree angle. Exercises for the back muscles should dominate exercises for the chest muscles at least 2: 1.
- The anterior serratus muscle can be strengthened during push-ups, but we must first learn to activate it. The exercise below is most appropriate for this purpose. You take a massage roller and press it at eye level against the wall with your wrists. By constantly leaning against the wall, you extend your arms over your head. This will push your blades forward and into external rotation as they deserve.
What can I expect when I eliminate the front tilt of my head? Less headaches and a better feeling in the neck, better balance, more correct distribution of weight on the vertebrae and thus better movement and reduced joint wear, less muscle pain and the possibility of injuries such as disc herniation, better well-being and concentration and last but not least better posture and higher self-esteem.