Overcontracted pectoralis major muscles can lead to pain, impingement and formation of trigger points. If left untreated for long time, what other postural problems can it lead to? Well, along with other know factors, tight pec major muscles can contribute to ‘Forward Head Posture.’ As the name simply states, Forward Head Posture is a forward, or anterior, positioning of the head, also sometimes referred to as ‘scholars posture’ or ‘readers posture.’ However, the head and neck aren’t the only parts of the spine affected. “…For every inch your head moves forward, it gains 10 pounds in weight, as far as the muscles in your neck and upper back are concerned, because they have to work that much harder to keep your head (chin) from dropping into your chest.”(Reference #1 below)
This means that if you have 3 inches of forward head posture your muscles are holding an extra 30 pounds of weight! According to one study this “can lead too long term muscle strain, disc herniation, and pinched nerves.” (Mayo Clinic Health Letter, V-18, #3, March 2000) (Reference #2 below). How can YTU exercises help with shoulder pain relief? I strongly recommend concentrating on the Yoga Tune Up® pose Open Sesame, shown in the video below and in the 10 Minute Quick Fix for Shoulders. It will help to regain length in the pectoralis major and reset the head where it belongs, fixing forward head posture.
Read about the perils of forward head posture.
Here’s a great blog about how to free your shoulders.
I have tight pecs and I love doing Open Sesame pose, but I spice it up by doing it with an Alpha ball on the pectoralis that I want to stretch. Of course you have to go gently into it, but it is the best pin and stretch I have ever discovered. Let me know if you get the chance to try it! Thank you
10 lbs for every inch. Wow. Just checked my alignment. 😉 This is a good reminder. Numbers and stats always seem to resonate well with everyone. Thank you!
Thank you so much for this insight. I just picked up a client struggling with Parkinson’s disease and is suffering from forward head posture. This information about the added weight of the head with each inch is extremely helpful when approaching my client. Thank you!
10 pounds for every inch…mind blowing. Sit up straight people, align yourself for long term health! Great blog
This article was eye opening. I know the head is heavy but for every inch the head is moved forward that is ten pounds. Holy smokes.
No wonder there are so many neck and shoulder challenges. I believe the amount of people who have forward head posture will increase due to our lifestyles of computers and texting. I am always telling my husband who is an avid reader, Hey, look up every once in awhile!
The idea that for every inch forward 10 pounds of weight is added is an amazing concept. It also makes sense that people who practice the “forward head posture” usual have neck and upper back issues due to the increased weight of the head, over contracted pectoralis major and over lengthened and under strengthened upper back and neck muscles.
This is one of my struggles — keeping my head in proper alignment. I’ve suffered such poor alignment for so long that I don’t even know what the proper alignment actually looks like on me. I am constantly trying to self-adjust my head and neck by moving it forward and back and every which way until it kind of feels right, never really settling confidently on the “right” position. Open Sesame is calling my name right now. I can’t wait to check it out.
I’m aware that there are numerous contributing factors involved in forward head posture, but I never really associated overly contracted pectoralis major muscles to the problem. Having gone through Corrective chiropractic care for this issue specifically, I’m surprised that addressing these muscles was not part of the therapy program. Thank you for this post! I’m thrilled to have another tool – Open Sesame Pose – to help keep my head where it belongs!
Fascinating. After reading about the head inching forward I had to reajust my head back a couple of inches. It makes me think of the kids who are lumberd with the 30 pound backpack of books they carry around all day. Heads go forward to compensate for the added weight. Thanks for the “heads up”.
its crazy to think about the muscles in your neck trying to hold up an additional 20 or 30 pounds. thanks for the info
While spending many hours at my computer I am very consciencous of my posture, especially how I hold my heavy head. Many years ago I would visit the chiropractor each week to correct the muscle imbalance not only in my pectorials but of course my spine and shoulders. Now when I feel the tension building in my pec , neck and upper back I roll on the YTU balls and the tension and the affects of my heavy head vanish!
Holy toledo–I’m just amazed to hear that each inch the head moves forward amounts to an additional 10 pounds of weight that the neck and upper back has to hold up. Put that factoid together with the understanding that it takes 72 seconds in a pose to start affecting skeletal changes and we have the reality that most of us are training for hours a day to have forward head posture. I’ve often seen elderly women with a dowagers hump and wondered how they got there. Now I know.
wow. my eldest son, who is 8 is already showing symptoms of this. he has had poor vision most of his life and only recently regained depth perception after 5 years of not being able to tell how near or far objects were. because of these difficulties, he rarely wanted to do physical activities and resorted to lego, drawing and online surfing. now, we have him doing a daily YTU routine with either me or his mom… but i never realized how quickly the forward protrusion of his head added weight to the neck… which would help to account for his neck and shoulder tension.
he doesn’t yet do his own YTU Ball work… we roll the balls on him… but now instead of just his upper back and shoulders, we will also start targeting his pecs and anterior delts.
thanks so much for this post. it has proved invaluable to me 🙂
Thank you for posting this, I’m really excited to try the Open Sesame pose! Also, I had a chiropractor who showed me a good visual to feel how much heavier your head gets as your head sticks forward: if you hold a heavy metal ball in your hand as your hand is bent backwards at the wrist, you’ll notice that it barely takes any effort to hold it there (just like if your neck has it’s natural lordosis curve). However, as you straighten the wrist and bring the ball forward, it takes a lot more effort to hold the ball (just like if your head is forward). I’ve found using a book holder when studying to be helpful, so instead of looking down with a bent neck, you can keep your neck neutral by looking forward.
As I was reading this post, I became very conscious to not lean forward over my computer – it’s easy to see how this is a common habit that you really need to be aware of in order to avoid. We strain to read small screens on phones and laptops – I watch many of my coworkers hunching over their desks, and over time this can take a toll. I never considered how the weight of the head adds so much strain on the neck and shoulders in this misalignment. It’s very interesting to realize how everything is connected!
This article coincides with some training that I had recently in an Anusara Yoga workshop. We took turns observing eachothers postures and were told that from a side profile our ears align with our shoulders which align with our hips which align with our ankles. Most of our ears were NOT aligned with our shoulders and we suffered from ‘Forward Head Posture” ! And we could stand to ‘realign our necks’ about a few inches. 30 lbs wow!!! If that’s not an incentive for good posture then I don’t know what is! And imagine when your head isn’t aligned properly in a posture like trikonasana! Its makes you definitely more proprioceptive in your practice!
This is so interesting! Since many of us work at computers and are consistently emailing/texting with our phones, it seems that “reader’s posture’ would become more and more prevalent not only in adults, but also in kids! These videos are great – something we should all consider doing before family dinner 😉
Nice article! I’ve been working my pecs with the ytu balls and I feel like I can circumduct my shoulders more freely now.
I had no idea an inch equals ten pounds!! Unbelievable.
That is for sure, one of my weakness due to the reverse curve of my cervical spine. The YTU balls are without a doubt helping to alleviate some pressure from my neck muscles.
What a timely and relevant blog subject. In NYC, riding the bus and subway these days everyone is buried in their iPads and hand held devices. In order to do this all heads are turned downwards and I even catch myself doing it. Yesterday I experimented with holding my iPhone et eye level as I read Treasure Island (on the 1 train down to Jill’s training). It really annoyed the guy on my right and the guy on my left really annoyed me because he just couldn’t help reading it too! So now when I look around the City I see thousands of necks that could benefit by Tune Ups and Tune Up Balls! If not today, then someday not too far off in the future.
My anterior head carriage is catching up with me. I’ve found that using the yoga tune up balls on the SCM, the levators and the scalenes has helped a lot. Also I use the balls on my pecs and my thoracic spine to try to improve my thoracic mobility. “I am a student of my body.”
Wow! I can’t believe that for every inch your head moves forward it gains 10 ponds in weight as far as the muscles in your neck & upper back are concerned. No wonder people with forward heads have such limited range of motion in their neck. Their muscles are so tight simply from working so hard trying to keep that heavy weight (head) from falling down onto their chest. Thank you for sharing this great information!
Very insigtful, I was aware that your head can weighs 10 pounds BUT that it gains a pound for every forward inch. That does put a different prospective on strentgthening all corresponding musculature for a better posture.
I can imagine it also leads to kyphosis, decreased respiratory ability, and postural muscle fatigue.
This is very insightful thank you. The pectorals are not the first muscle group to spring to mind in forward bends but reminding ourselves of just how strong and heavy the head is can transform such a posture.
What about for someone who has reverse curse of the neck?
The head will have a tendency to move too far forward. Will stretching the pec major and working the shoulders alleviate the tension in the neck muscles?
Very helpful thanks.