Did you know that your head weighs 10-12 pounds or about the same as a bowling ball?
“For every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” ~Kapandji, Physiology of Joints, Volume 3.
Forward Head Posture (“FHP”, also referred to as Forward Head Syndrome (FHS) and Forward Head Thrust or Neck Thrust) is present when the ear is anterior of the shoulder rather than sitting directly above it. “Good” posture has the ears aligned the over the shoulders, the shoulders aligned over the iliac crests of the pelvis, the iliac crests over the knees and the knees over the lateral malleoli of the ankles.
Problems can arise from the ground up, but quite frequently, our head and neck posture translates down the spine. Over time we may unconsciously be allowing ourselves to collapse while reading, driving, and computing. These habits “lock short” our sternocleidomastoid and pectoral muscles and contribute to a forward head posture.
Rene Cailliet M.D., former Director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation a the University of Southern California says: “Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shoulders and pelvis. All are important, but head position takes precedence over all others. The body follows the head. Therefore the entire body is best aligned by first restoring proper functional alignment to the head.”
Furthermore, Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Laureate for Brain Research demonstrated in the 1980’s that: “90% of the brain’s energy output is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10% has to do with thinking, metabolism, and healing.” This means that walking around in forward head posture prioritizes using the body’s energy resources on gravity-rebalancing which robs us of vital energy for thinking, metabolism and healing.
Back to the dangers of forward head massage: Someone with 2 inches of forward head thrust is adding twenty extra pounds of pressure to the axial spine! This added strain forces the muscles in the shoulders, neck and upper back to work over time to try to “right” the added burden, leading to a plethora of potential pitfalls including tension headaches, increased blood pressure, disc herniation, arthritis, pinched nerves, eye and ear dysfunction, TMJ, fibromyalgia, loss of lung capacity, upper back pain and reduced shoulder mobility (American Journal of Pain Management, 1994; 4: p36-39)
The good news is that this condition can be improved and even reversed. A Certified Yoga Tune Up® teacher can guide you through a well-balanced mat and Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball practice. Corrective YTU sequencing will reconnect you to your breath via the diaphragm and inner core and would include poses that lengthen the frontal muscles of the neck, chest and shoulder, and strengthen the weak neck and upper back muscles. Targeted Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball work will not only offer much-needed tension relief, but it will increase your proprioception (your body’s sense of itself) and will greatly relieve chronically locked-short shoulder and neck muscles as shown in the video below.
Learn how to take care of your neck.
Learn more about Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls.
In addition, check out Jill’s appearance on Kelly Starrett’s MobilityWod website with a special Levator Scapula Therapy Ball release (aka Neck Gnar Gnar!).
Click here to see the upper back and neck pain relief video on YouTube.
This is an area that I have had interest in studying .Teaching the awareness of how to avoid or correct FHP or FHS in my class is something I would like to learn more about. I found Dr. Cailliet’s quote particularly interesting. Thank you for this article.
I think YTU should do a cross promotion with cell-phone manufacturers. You get a phone/you get a pair of YTU balls and learn how to mitigate the hours of forward head posture coming your way. This has to be one of the greatest physical issues coming for future generations.
Very interesting. I will have some education to do with my students. I like it.
I remember as a preteen and teen my mom was always nagging me (in my limited teenage perspective…) to draw my head back over my neck. Once I started practicing yoga in college, I finally understood why she was saying this and started to try to correct my FHP. The part I still find challenging, 20 years later, is continuing to develop my proprioception of FHP during daily life. I sometimes catch a glimpse of myself in a window or a picture catches a side angle where I notice that my head still juts forward of my neck when I’m… Read more »
“90% of the brain’s energy output is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10% has to do with thinking, metabolism, and healing.” This is surprising. “Someone with 2 inches of forward head thrust is adding twenty extra pounds of pressure to the axial spine!” This is almost frightening. As a massage therapist, sometimes I get tired of clients who has no interests or desire to change their life style or unhealthy habits. I will definitely start sharing those informations with clients, so they may be more aware of postures and habits. Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball practice… Read more »
I have a friend who works in a beauty salon and she spends hours hunched forward when doing manicures and pedicures on clients… next time I see her, I will bring her a pair of YTU-Therapy balls and this article for her to undo some of the damage that has been done to her body!
I’ve often wondered if this was the root of my migraines especially as I’ve aged with the unless computer work and cell phone usage. What’s great is with the ball roll as Jill displays in the post, my neck is about to find a deep release from the tightness which is HUGE! Great post!!
Very convincing arguments to improve one’s proprioception of exactly where our head is at! I look forward to working working some YTU tricks on that.
Another great “blog”, I’m so glad you wrote about this. I have heard people say that our head weighs as much as a bowling ball, but I never gave it much thought until now. But this makes so much sense. Quote, “Rene Cailliet M.D., former Director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation a the University of Southern California says: “Most attempts to correct posture are directed toward the spine, shoulders and pelvis. All are important, but head position takes precedence over all others. The body follows the head. Therefore the entire body is best aligned by first restoring… Read more »
Thanks for this article, Dinneen! It reinforces a lot of what I have been teaching, while also challenging my usual order of operations, as I often teach from the ground up. I am excited to start trying out aligning the head first and see how it impacts posture. Also: “90% of the brain’s energy output is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10% has to do with thinking, metabolism, and healing.” ?!?!?!? WOW! That gives a whole new meaning to the idea of “getting your head on straight”!
Thank you for this post Dinnen. I often tell my students about the head being as heavy as a bowling ball… this image really worked for me when I heard it for the first time, it made me realize how much extra weight I was putting on my neck and shoulders. My acupuncturist (I went to him for really bad stiff necks) used to tell me “If you feel like you are walking with your nose up in the air, chances are you are in the right spot for your head… don’t feel like a snob, you just need to… Read more »
I’ve been working on improving my FHP for years but mainly focussing on shoulders and back……….yeah, probably time to start adding more mobilisations/exercises for chest/pec areas to make a bit more progress 🙂
This was very interesting. I always heard and thought that corrective action should start from the ground up. This makes so much sense that the “body follows the head” especially with all that extra weight. Eleven plus years sitting at a desk at work, I have not only seen this in colleagues, but experienced the head protruding forward. Trying to look at the screen, and now the constant looking down at our phones has added to this issue.
Thanks, Dineen! Excellent post. So interesting to flip the focus from going from the ground up, to the effect of head and neck posture translating down the spine.
I decided to grab a pair of plus balls and do the video after I read this. omg my computer neck pain is relieved, thanks for offering such a great program to enable people to have an at home affordable pain reliever that is so fun to use!! I love Yoga Tune Up.
Very interesting and so essential to know, yet not much people just have the sensitivity to be aware of their head posture. I liked the cue of the ears over shoulder. I also like to tell my students to move back their nose while making sure their chin isn’t pointing up.
Wow. The deeper I get into my at home practice with therapy balls, the more I start to uncover blind spots and strain due to poor posture. My cervical spine has been front and center in my practice lately because I have been feeling all the tension from holding my head too far forward. I spend a lot of time at work on the computer and I love to read, so I am in this position too often. As I get more in touch with my body, my neck is begging for some release. I had never once considered how… Read more »
This blog makes me far more aware of my head position as I am typing this. Thanks! Very useful to recognize the pain that can result from poor head posture.. and the common activities that create a leaned-forward head position.
Today I was introduced to YTU’s blockhead pose, holding a block behind the base of the skull to the occipital muscles and then extending the cervical spine into it. This felt so delicious as a way to correct all the stress the heavy head creates when it hangs forward day in and day out. I was amazed to read in your post that the body follows the alignment of the head. So no matter the work we do to efficiently align our hips ,shoulders and spine, we’re out of luck if we don’t first prioritize our head position! And if… Read more »
I am so happy to learn particularly from the quote “90% of the brain’s energy output is used in relating the physical body to gravity.” I hadn’t realized how much the brain is continually involved in the positioning of our physical body. Head positioning is so important in our current society with the high level of cell phone use.
Very interesting about the energy focus of the brain to balance and gravity. Once we know how to walk, we take for granted that the body just knows how to do it and doesn’t “think” about it. How many school students could be more efficient in their work if they had more balanced heads?! Not to mention anybody in the work place – strange then, that sitting at a computer, staring at a screen are an almost integral part of a lot of peoples’ days, yet due to this, their head goes forward and neck muscles tighten, hence making them… Read more »
Thank you Dinneen! This post is great, so informative and so important in our “mobile-era”. Definitely I plan to teach classes to this topic in the future and sensitise students for their head posture. Un grand merci!
I can’t help but notice those women that wear high heals and how it rounds their shoulders and brings their head forward. Unfortunately, they damage more than just their feet. Very informative post!
I usually think about aligning posture from the ground up. It’s interesting to think about starting with head position. Super important topic given our device-heavy culture.
Where’s my energy going??? I think I found out in this post! I will keep checking my head position. Thanks for this very useful information.
Great reminder thanks Dinneen, on the importance of the effects on what FORWARD HEAD POSTURE HAS ON THE BODY & BRAIN!! SCARY! interesting research you mentioned in your Post blog quoted here from Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Laureate for Brain Research demonstrated in the 1980’s that: “90% of the brain’s energy output is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10% has to do with thinking, metabolism, and healing.” This means that walking around in forward head posture prioritizes using the body’s energy resources on gravity-rebalancing which robs us of vital energy for thinking, metabolism and healing.… Read more »
I have to be conscious of my head leaning forward all the time. I had no idea how much it was affecting my whole body but that makes complete sense. If the spine is out of alignment, the entire body can’t function properly. I will keep working on my tight trapezius!
So many of our 21st century activities like driving, texting and sitting at a computer all day really take a toll on the head and neck. Proof that yoga tune-up poses and therapy balls can work your body from head to toe!
This is a great reminder of something theoretically so easy – to just realign your head with the rest of your body. I agree that the focus tends to be straight to the spine, shoulders and pelvis – especially in how I self treat with the therapy balls. Getting to the root cause and fixing the head position would further eliminate the need to work out the kinks, and spend more time rolling for relaxation!
This is a great article, and SO important in our technology-driven culture! I love the quote “the body follows the head”–it reminds me of my lessons in the Alexander Technique, which has the same premise. Thank you!
Great article! I see this change in teens especially due to all the technology they use and don’t do any stretching to correct it. I am a massage therapist and I work on clients with FHP all the time.
Great article! I’ve been working on correcting my FHP for a while now, and this adds several new reasons for me to make this a top priority. Having dealt with hypertension in the past, this is the first I’ve head that my FHP could be a contributor. I’m also hoping for some improvements with my tinnitus, too. Good motivators for change. Thanks!
Excellent post with useful references that make an impact on me dealing with FHP that I developed through a lifetime of poor posture habits while in school, driving, and working in an office, among others. This information will be useful when teaching students to take note of their posture and work toward improving it.
This is a great article! My neck seems to be my barometer during times of stress, always indicating to me that I need to relax. I wonder if the anxiety triggers fight-or-flight response, instinctively positioning the head forward to be more “alert.” I also definitely notice the difference when I spend more time in front of a computer, which often times cannot be avoided, so it’s nice to have a go-to therapy ball routine to counteract the forward head posture! Thanks!
Ah yes, Foreward Head Posture. I see it every day in the form of my overworked husband! Being tall also puts one at a disadvantage here as the foreward strain or slump of the head and neck is also necessary for looking at a computer, chopping veggies on the counter, or washing dishes on the same setup we all use. The YTU balls would seem a great place to start as there is often a complicated mix of tight/long/weak/shortened muscles going on here. With the tissues more released and receptive we can begin the work of mobilizing and strengthening. Lord… Read more »
I can’t believe I’ve been adding so many pounds of pressure to my axial spine over the years. No wonder my shoulder muscles ache and lead to tension headaches. Leading with my head for proper alignment is a great visual. My son and I benefit from the Yoga Tune Up therapy ball exercises in this area. Thanks.
Such an OMazing first day for YTU TT, many thanks!! I found this blog entry particularly enlightening and useful given the rampant epidemic of FHS due to our society’s obsession with digital devices, myself included!
This is a huge problem nowadays. As a massage therapist I am dealing with this clients who could solve many of their chronic issues just by a more neutral head position. I will be recommending this routine to them. Thank you.