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Forward Head Posture is one of the most common posture problems we see today. Learn some stretches you can do to fix Forward Head Posture and reduce symptoms such as neck and shoulder pain, tension, headaches and more.

The Problem

Forward Head Posture is one of the most common posture problems. We spend too much time sitting in front of our computer and spend way too much time looking down at our phones. FHP will lead to tension on ligaments and muscles, pressure on joints and nerves and degenerative changes of the spine. The most common symptoms of FHP are neck & shoulder pain, tension, headaches, radiating symptoms down your arms, muscle spasm, trigger points and sleep disturbances. Your head weighs between 8-12 pounds (4-6kg) and for every inch your head is thrust forward from its natural position it adds another 10 pounds of stress on your neck and spine. Now you know why you have so much tension on your neck and shoulders!

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FHP and poor posture will lead to a pattern of muscle imbalance call Upper Cross Syndrome. With UCS there will be tightness on the upper trapezius, levator scapula and suboccipital muscles on the back and tightness of the pectoralis anteriorly. At the same time we would have weakness of the deep cervical flexors anteriorly with weakness of the middle-lower trapezius and rhomboid muscles on the posteriorly.

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How To Fix It?

We should work to re-establish proper head and neck alignment to take the stress off the spine. We need to balance our muscles, stretching the muscles that are tight and strengthening the muscles that are weak.


Muscle to Stretch:

1. Trapezius 

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  • Stabilize the same side of stretch by holding your chair or pulling your arm down behind your back.
  • Keeping your nose facing straight ahead, bring your ear to the opposite shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 sec.
  • Repeat 3 times in each side.

2. Levator Scapulae

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This stretch can be very useful for people who suffer from tight, aching muscles in the upper back and neck, such as those who work at a computer.

  • Stabilize the same side of stretch by holding your chair or pulling your arm down behind your back.
  • Move your ear towards the shoulder and feel a stretch on the opposite side of the neck.
  • Rotate your head to the opposite side and tilt your chin down
  • Hold for between 15 and 30 seconds, do 3 repetitions in each side that equals one set.

3. Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)

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The sternocleidomastoid is a long strap-like muscle on both sides of the front of the neck. It goes from the mastoid process behind your ear to the sternum and clavicle.

  • Place your opposite hand below the clavicle on your chest and press down
  • Rotate the head to the opposite side as far as is comfortable
  • Then tilt the head in extension, as if trying to reach the ear to the shoulder.
  • Hold for between 15 and 30 seconds, do 3 repetitions in each side that equals one set.

4. Upper Neck Muscles SOT (Suboccipital Triangle)

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The suboccipital muscles are four small muscles attaching at either the C1 (atlas) or C2 (axis) vertebrae, all but one of these muscles, the obliquus capitis inferior, go on to attach to the base of the skull. They mechanically function to generate extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the skull and upper vertebrae. Tension and trigger points in this group of muscles might lead to headaches.

  • Place a massage or tennis ball under your head as to press into the areas underneath the base of the skull. If you don’t have a ball you can use your thumbs.
  • Practice rotating your head from side to side to emphasize certain areas.
  • If it’s tender, you are most likely on the right area or trigger point.
  • Self-Massage for 5 minutes
  • Repeat on both sides.

5. Chest / Pectorals

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  • Find an open door frame
  • With your forearms at a 90 degree angle to your arms, place your hands firmly against the outside of the door frame.
  • Step forward with one leg, keeping your arms firmly on the door
  • Hold for 15 – 30 seconds depending upon the severity of tightness
  • Returning to the original position and repeat the move with your elbows up to shoulder level and then with your arms raise to just above your shoulders to stretch different fibers of the muscle.

Muscles to Strengthen:

1. Rhoboids

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The main function of the rhomboid is there to retract your shoulder blades.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

  • Begin this exercise standing or sitting with your back straight.
  • Your chin should be tucked in slightly and your shoulders should be back slightly.
  • Slowly tighten your rhomboids by squeezing your shoulder blades together as hard and far as possible provided the exercise is pain free.
  • Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times

2. Deep Cervical Flexors

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The deep neck flexors are the muscles at the front of your neck that help to stabilize and support the spine. Those with postural neck pain often have weakness in these muscles and overuse in the muscles on the top of the shoulders.

  • You can do this standing up or lying down
  • Nod your chin in while lengthening you neck along the floor or wall. Imagine making your neck longer.
  • Hold for a count of 10 seconds. Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

3. Lower Trapezius

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Due to Forward Head Posture, faulty thoracic spine extensibility or overactive upper traps, our lower trapezius is often lengthened and weak. This will inherently leave us unstable around the scapulae.

Scapular wall slide

  • Stand against the wall, lift your arms shoulders high and bend your elbows at 90 degrees, like if you were doing a Y with your body and arms.
  • From the starting position, drive through the scapulae and allow them to actively depress down.
  • Try to pull your elbows further down and actively depress the scapulae down at the end range.
  • The key is to think solely about moving from the scapulae.


Before starting any exercise program visit your chiropractor so he can assess your condition and advise accordingly. To correct Forward Head Posture & Upper Cross Syndrome, we should achieve proper range of motion before we progress to strengthening exercises. Remember be aware of your posture at all times and KEEP YOUR HEAD ON TOP OF YOUR SHOULDERS!!!


Contributor:

Thumbnail_Wellness_DrKevin

Dr. Kevin Tomassini is a Chiropractor, Wellness Speaker and Fitness Expert, from Puerto Rico currently living and practicing in Singapore.