Forward Head Posture = Pain
September 3, 2006 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Looking for people who have experienced forward head posture problems.

I've had upper back pain for years, and consulted many professionals about it. Each time, their diagnosis / remedy was incorrect, and the pain continued. I do yoga and pilates, and overall quite flexable, but the upper back continued hurting.

Last week, I found this article. It describes my symtoms exactly, and the exercises have already helped more than any of my prior attempts.

I'd like to hear more reccomendations / expereinces about forward head posture issues, aside from what a typical google search would yield. I'm very excited about finally addressing the pain, and the more info the better!
posted by yorick to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I had pretty much the same problem due to poor posture sitting at my PC. Head position was all wrong, with pain transmitting all across my upper back. I found it extremely difficult to relax these muscles because they were so used to being tense. A course of lessons in the Alexander Technique has started to help - it's made me much more aware of my posture, has taught me some good techniques for relaxing my muscles in the neck and upper back, and has taught me to move in a very different way. Even sitting down and walking round corners were something I had to relearn! But the good thing is that once you've been to a reasonable amount of lessons, there's lots you can start applying on your own. I find myself walking down the street and consciously considering my posture, and even diagnosing the posture of complete strangers - "his head's way too far forward..." etc! I'd recommend it, it has helped for me although as ever YMMV.
posted by greycap at 5:57 AM on September 3, 2006

That article looks pretty good to me. Keep following the recommendations.
posted by caddis at 6:01 AM on September 3, 2006

Also known as "dog neck" I am told
posted by A189Nut at 6:04 AM on September 3, 2006

Had neck, shoulder and upper back pains intermittantly for years. Nothing debilitating (and nothing I didn't write off as "just the result of a long day at work / tension / my lanky build") but on the recommendation of a colleague I went to a chiropractor. A dozen treatments produced some satisfying bone-crunching and transient relief but nothing substantial. On a punt, I went to a physiotherapist who took one look at me and said "How long have you been holding yourself like that?"

Some random tips:

* It's all about the posture. Address that and things will come around.

* I've found pilates very useful in encouraging a general body and posture awareness. (I'm surprised your instructor hasn't pointed out any problems to you. My experience is that they're fairly good at noticing heads that are forward or backward.)

* Building a bit of muscle to help you hold the right posture is useful too.

* A few exercises to release tension: use a rolled towel under your back or your neck to rest back on and stretch over.

* You'll start seeing how many other people have a faulty posture. Trust me.
posted by outlier at 6:14 AM on September 3, 2006

I have had lower neck/upper back pain from computer use; from bending my head forward. I currently have my monitor, a Dell LCD, sitting on 2 reams of paper and fully extended upwards. It forces my to keep my head back.

I know all the ergonimic resources say to have the top of the monitor at eye level, but when I do that the pain comes back.
posted by distrakted at 6:51 AM on September 3, 2006

I know all the ergonimic resources say to have the top of the monitor at eye level, but when I do that the pain comes back.

Yeah, but those resources are based on statistical averages - if you're taller (or shorter) than the mean, then it won't really help you.

I'm 6'6", and computer use is full-on painful. I'm drawn to wall-mountable monitors, as this would definitely require better posture. But what about those times when working on a laptop? I know there are solutions (stands, extra keyboard), but they're a pain in the, um, neck.
posted by jbickers at 7:30 AM on September 3, 2006

Wow, thanks for this article, yorick. I'm only 19, so I haven't experienced the pain (yet), but all my life people have said I slouched. You would not believe the number of people who have immediately accused me of being 'one of those lazy youths with an attitude problem,' just on the basis of my posture. A doctor once told me to do lots and lots of sit-ups, and, though they firmed up my abs, they did nothing to help my posture. I'm going to try the recommendations from your article. Once again, thanks.
posted by notswedish at 8:21 AM on September 3, 2006

I have two suggestions. First, you can buy some little adhesive dots at an office supply store and stick those dots in various places around your office, car, and home. Every time you see a dot, you'll know what it means: correct your posture. This works because it's really hard to break the bad-posture habit and you need reminding from time to time. Second, get a decent pillow. That will help relax your neck at night. I got one of those tempurpedic pillows and it really helped my neck. Good luck!
posted by Lockjaw at 9:45 AM on September 3, 2006

little adhesive dots

I have a big sign on my monitor at work saying "shoulders!" which does much the same thing.
posted by greycap at 1:32 PM on September 3, 2006

I have the same problems and am 24... years of video games and computer use really have taken a toll on my posture. I am a tall guy, 6'3, but people dont notice it because I slouch. when I stand up straight people say WOW, you are tall!!!! I am trying to break this habit too, here is some of my research.

This thing is supposed to help, its not a pillow or a seat insert but a "corrective cushion" which you lay on for 20 mins a day and do stretches. I imagine it works in much the same way as the wall techniques above but some people swear by it.

Also I saw a little belt that you wore under your clothes that would detect a slouch or a slackening of your abdominal muscles and start to vibrate, reminding you to sit up straight and suck in that stomach. i cant find the link sadly.
posted by outsider at 1:42 PM on September 3, 2006

I have the same problem, gradually getting it sorted out through a good osteopath. Her recommendations are much the same as that article, so it looks sound to me.

The main additional thing I'd say is that you may initially need someone to show you how to stand straight - I guess I'd try a physio, osteopath, or Alexander (not tried it personally, but my wife said it was very good).

It's quite hard to fix your posture just by looking in the mirror, and you probably won't recognise when it is good, because it will feel totally wrong to start with. It'll feel like you're tucking your chin much too far in. Once you can feel when it's right, it's much easier to recognise when you are out of alignment.

And then, as everyone says, it's a question of reminding yourself to reset your posture when you notice it.

Oh, and I felt quite self-conscious to start with - I felt taller, and I felt that people would notice me. I'm not super tall (6') but I think I may have subconsciously been slouching to make myself appear smaller.
posted by crocomancer at 2:04 PM on September 3, 2006

The exercises in the article are many of the same ones which my physical therapist recommended to me for chronic shoulder pain and headaches brought on by sitting in front of a computer all the time--all tied to posture.

I am very suprised your doctors would not have diagnosed poor posture--it's a very common problem for back pain, neck pain, headaches...but anyhow, I would recommend having your doctor refer you to a physical therapist. They will show you how to properly do a variety of exercises to strengthen the weak muscles (you need to be sure you're contracting the right muscles...), and stretch the tight ones. Mild weightlifting to strenthen back muscles, foam roller stretches...even if you can just go for a session or two, it would be good to have them demonstrate and watch you do it a few times.

Another stretching link...
posted by sLevi at 10:06 PM on September 3, 2006

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