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.

Dinneen Viggiano

An experienced Therapeutic Movement & Back Pain Specialist with 18 years’ experience, Dinneen offers classes, workshops, trainings and online programming to optimize nutrition, improve mobility and Retrain Back Pain®. As a Senior Teacher Trainer for Tune Up Fitness® & Roll Model® Method, Dinneen travels the globe leading professional trainings. She is also a NeuroKinetic & CranioSacral Therapist and a Certified Health and Nutrition Counselor. www.dinneenviggiano.com

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Brendan

I’ve noticed improvement in my own posture with the help of the YTU balls. The first time I got on the balls I was shocked at how many blind spots of tension were uncovered. I am getting better at sensing when my head is starting to creep forward and when my shoulders are becoming like a set of earrings. The simplest of actions are challenging enough with this body predicament. Adding complex yoga poses to mix can only set the stage for injury and body stress. This alone is a good enough reason to slow down and get back to… Read more »

Heather

I talk to my clients about their head positions constantly. I try to teach them posture corrections for being in the car, being on the computer and texting. It’s not easy to get someone to believe that their shoulder or back pain it tied to their neck, but once you start unwinding the tissues and repositioning the head people quickly see the connection.

Mary

A very important article Dinneen! In the personal training field, we are taught to look for a forward head posture in movements such as a cable row or pushup, however, instruction to “correct” the problem is highly lacking. Even though it’s such a common problem today! Thank you for sharing these resources. Once I master the techniques, I will be sharing them will all of my clients!

Kaelyn S

Thank you, Denninee. This is some fabulous insight! As I began reading your article, I realized that I was a using forward head posture (Yikes!) Now as I sit here typing, I am consciously trying to align my ears over my shoulders and I already notice a huge difference on how my whole body feels. Before reading your article I always tried to correct my posture by rolling my shoulders down my back. I had it all wrong. Now it makes complete sense that the position of our head takes priority over my entire body! Wow my mind is blown.… Read more »

Angie

Very informative article, this will definitely make me more aware of postural alignment from the neck down not only in my students but myself as well. I especially loved the technique shown on the MWOD video with Kelly Starrett and feel amazing after trying it. I think for me personally, this technique combined with rolling the pectoralis muscles and lengthening the SCM would be hugely beneficial. Your post also gets me thinking about the alignment we hold for several hours a day while sleeping. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t better contoured pillow options out there for anyone who is… Read more »

Jill D

Really interesting information in this blog, thank you! Although I am aware that the head protruding forward is a misalignment and may refers pain into the neck and shoulders, the statement, ‘the body follows the head’ reminded me that I don’t always look to the head as the point of origin when considering how a misalignment may be grossly effecting the body – I often jump to feet, hips etc. That being said, I do very often experience neck/shoulder pain and tension and do pay attention to where my head is hanging out. One thing I love to do when… Read more »

Ann

Solid article with some tangible remedies to what is becoming an all-too-common problem. I see it more and more in my students, my colleagues, my family….and of course many of them complain about the discomfort. It gives me an opportunity to introduce the YTU therapy balls (hehehe)….and of course everyone falls in love with the relief they provide. Thanks, Dinneen — your article has become my “impartial witness” when converting (especially) family members to the Fellowship of the Balls! 🙂

deborah serri

Cool article, Dineen. It’s crazy that every inch forward increases the weight of the head so much. A few years ago I went to a chiropractor and before my first adjustment he took a profile photo of me and then measured the angle between my chin and chest so that I could visually see how far forward my head was on my spine. After several sessions he took another photo and the angle had decreased. I no longer see a chiropractor, but I am confident through my regular practice of 3 years of yoga since I saw that chiropractor, the… Read more »

Jarett G

Thanks Dineen, this is an excellent post. I too suffer from this condition and it’s a constant struggle to correct. I will add some of these YTU neck poses into my routine. Another point of advice I can offer is that I found this problem got worse for me after working in front of a computer screen for many years. Little did I know it was because of worsening eye sight that I was continually straining my head and neck forward to read the screen. At a friend’s recommendation I got my eyes tested several months ago and needed my… Read more »

Linh Taylor

Very interesting and thorough article. This is a common misalignment that most of us has. It’s so common that it becomes the norm and what normal supposed to be. I’m guilty of often having a forward head thrust as I work in front of my computer. I did have some tightness in my pects and neck today after 10 hours of work. Will remind myself to have good posture throughout the day. Thanks Dinneen.

Kristin

Thank you for including the fact that the pecs tighten and shorten due to this. Many people are focused on the SCM

rie katagiri

Thank you for stating that bad posture can trickle from up to down. It is so custom to think of starting at our feet/knees/hips and then going up to assess correct alignment. I feel much better and less tired after taking your cues!

Jennie Cohen

Of course, this post makes me hyper aware that I’m sitting hunched at my computer, head thrust forward to read the text on the screen…
And I will definitely use the YTU therapy balls routine featured in this video as my self-reward at the end of this intensive week of training.

Meghan

This is a beautiful article. The forward head is an epidemic. The more education people get about the simple things they can do everyday to mitigate the damage of sitting at a desk in front of the computer force field the better. If it is true that your posture follows you like a shadow then this is one shadow that we must banish!

Melissa

I loved the link to Jill chatting about the neck muscles with Kelly ! I 100% move my head into a forward position and it causes so much discomfort to my levator and trap muscles! After reading this article and watching the videos, I’m going to make sure I’m not seeing a bad example for my students in my yoga classes!

Jenny Buchanan

“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.”” This corresponds with my observations of students over many years and provokes me to continue emphasizing head placement awareness for students in all classes. I often talk about the head being the “flower” and the… Read more »

Vincent Budac

Sweet post Dinneen! It’s amazing how much a forward head position affects the rest of the body. I have to actively be mindful of my head and shoulder position whenever I’m at a computer, especially when a really interesting article or post like this one comes across my page! Thanks!

MaryBeth Frosco

Hi Dinneen. Love when my thoughts and habits are flipped upside down with a new way to observe and to bring awareness to myself and others. For so much of my teaching, I move from the ground up…finding foundation, moving up and aligning, engaging the core, and finally expressing in the pose….and then head???? I hand’t thought about “where the head goes, the body follows”, but isn’t this what I have been observing all along??? Thanks for the great article and for giving me pause, to step back, breathe, observe and then to offer something “simple” that truly has the… Read more »

Allison Shapiro

This article really packs a punch. Every word powerful, relevant, and true. Even a giraffe would heed this advice. I’d like to memorize this. Thanks Dinneen.

Helen

Thank you for this! I recently was enlightened by why my neck might hurt….being short I am constantly looking up to see things, talk to people…etc. hence my neck has begun this journey of tightness. This article was great Dineen…and will keep my head on the right track…or at least be much more mindful. Thank you!

Michelle B

Sitting at a computer all day is a major pain in the neck for me! I’m learning to use the YTU balls to release those tight neck muscles, and also focus on proper alignment of my head in relation to the rest of my body

Kate Krumsiek

I’ve just begun to really focus on the head forward position in my yoga practice and am astounded at how many poses this problem leaks into – not to mention off the mat. I love that this article outlines the problem, the issues it causes and then launches into tangible ways to address the consequences both with increased awareness of a body in space and the placement of YTU balls. I also love the circular trip back to the all important breath to build strength where weakness lives and flexibility where tightness reigns. “Great article’ 🙂

Marc Nelles

Wow! This article really opened my eyes… I can’t believe you add on 10 additional pounds for every inch of FHP to that “already heavy” head! As a dancer-gone-9-to-5 this is really relevant and gives me some ideas to work on alignment and cure my pains and imbalances with the YTU balls once again. Thank you, Dinneen!

Tonya

As we are in the days of texting and constantaly looking down I have been finding my neck carrying more pressure and happy to have found this excercise to release the tension and put my neck in alignment.

Ekat

Really wonderful article, Dineen! I think that almost everyone from modern society suffers from it because of computers, blackberries, iPads, etc. I feel like all foward folding poses release a lot of this tension in the cervical vertebrae but little muscles like the suboccipitals and the sternomastoid need to be massaged for more relief with the balls

Lauren F

I searched “headache” on the blog and this was the first post to pop up. Head Forward Syndrome is something I probably suffer from (sitting at a computer, constant headaches/migraines)…but my husband is truly suffering although not in as much pain as me. Not only is it genetic (I see his poor posture and head exaggerated in his mother and even his late grandfather).

If he does not have yoga tune-up balls, are there any exercises he could be doing to begin to correct this problem and stand up more straight…with less pressure on his head? Thanks!

Matt Sharpe

Thanks Dinneen. I’ve been spending a lot of time on my shoulders and low back, but less on my neck and head posture in particular. Thanks for so much research behind it too – helpful – and scary enough that I’ll be paying more attention to these muscles as a starting place.

Andrea Borrero

10 pounds for every inch? I just sat up very tall and made sure my ears were in line with my shoulders. jeesh. I just began working with a client who has a very slim build, tight legs and shoulders, and a smallish head that I’ve noticed keeps slipping forward like a turtle’s no matter how many times I correct it in Tadasana. When I say lengthen the back of your neck, he juts his chin forward and we lose everything. But for him, I’ve realized, it feels like it’s sitting up right on top of his spine when it’s… Read more »

najla

THank you for this! I had been doing pilates for 15 years, and teaching for 7 when i discovered, upon performing a solo show that i wrote for 9 weeks, 8 times a week, that the chronic laryngitis and migraines id been suffering from my whole life, could be traced back to my hypermobile neck and forward head posture! id gone over every part of my body with a fine tooth comb perfecting my posture, but never made enough time for my neck and head. now its my NUMBER ONE concern and the first thing i check when setting myself… Read more »

Anna-Marie Lawrence

Thank you so much for telling me about your article. I’m definitely sharing it with my husband. Believe it or not Karl ( my very non athletic husband) decided to try the YTU balls again this evening. I’m chuffed! I guess you were right leading by example is the best way to encourage change.

Jimmy

Super solid article Dinneen 🙂 I look in classes when I teach and see so many students in postures like triangle who just let their head hang from the cervical spine. I remind them just like you did here that-ya it may as well be the 12 pound bowling ball you speak of. It’s interesting to see how complex a posture like that really is with all it’s different directions of engagement/activation/intention/expression etc. when compared to just standing straight from head to toe can be such a challenge to do properly. Yoga-it’s getting easier to see, sad to say, that… Read more »

erin

What great information about a common body misalignment that is seen daily in people. The inactive daily habits translate sadly into the active habits where more strain is felt in the body because there is poor proprioceptive awareness to where our head actually sits above the shoulders. In Level One Teacher training Jill was talking about this periscope perspective looking down into our bodies, how we align ourselves, which our head placement surely can be integrated here too. Releasing those upper postural muscles with the Therapy balls is a wonderful place to begin to shift and awaken the awareness.

Matt Nadler

I originally read this blog a few months ago and took some of it into my classes. I’m currently in Jill’s Level One Teacher Training in NYC and re-read it. It’s a very well researched and thought-through message. Far more than merely tucking in your chin, bringing the back of the head straight back and trying to keep goot posture. I know I’ll be far more observant of me as well as my students. And, by discussing the problems associated with FHP besides cosmetically looking better, I know that my students will benefit greatly.

alex

I was super interested to see that fhp can cause symptoms of TMJ because I used to suffer from really terrible jaw popping and fatigue. But since I’ve been working with yoga and improving my postural alignment my symptoms have been alleviated quite a lot. I never put the two together directly, I just figured I was less stressed in general. Very cool!

Amy

After experiencing the YTU Ball therapy for release of the neck and shoulder muscles in training today..it resonated so clearly that many of us just naturally compensate in other areas of the body because of the chronically tight or short musculanr tension in the neck in shoulders- and do not even realize it until there is direct weight bearing and proprioception which the ball work provides..until that area is released it is very difficult to achieve or work towards that proper head alignment…a great sequence.

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Samantha

Dineen, as I am reading this blog on my computer I realize I am guilty of the forward head posture no no. I am constantly having to correct this at work, at home, when reading in bed. It’s amazing how quickly we create these bad habits for ourselves and how long it takes to fix them. Thank you for once again reminding us how to take care of the heaviest thing we carry around all day (aside from our yoga bags full of girly things of course!)

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Sharon

Thank you Dineen for your article. I had been encouraging students to roll their shoulders back and down. Now I add ears over shoulders, shoulders aligned over the iliac crests of the pelvis, the iliac crests over the knees and the knees over the ankles. I also have given them the bowling ball and head analogy. They are getting it! I have my students telling me that as they are going along in their daily life they hear my voice and posture awareness cues in their head (in a good way!) and correct their posture. I see my students postures… Read more »

Alyssa

Thank you Dineen, for this insightful article! Its unbelievable how often my head is held forward, working at a computer, writing something down, thrown off with a giant purse. My neck and trapezius muscles are always extremely sore after writing a long paper or working at my desk — and now I know why. I will continue to aim for good posture from the crown of my head to the base of my feet1

Kelsea

Using a bowling ball to talk about your head is a good visual. That will be a useful cue to give my students when I instruct them about their posture to start with their head first. I do notice that since I have started school I am sitting more and my head is forward buried in my textbook and I now have more upper back/neck pain that I have ever had before. I will have to be careful about my posture and start with aligning my head.

brooke thomas

This is such great information! Most of my clients worry about their forward head posture primarily as a cosmetic issue- they worry that they have “bad posture” and don’t look good. But the information on forward head posture robbing us of energy for thinking, metabolism and healing is totally news to me! That’s great information to know and to pass on to people who are motivated to correct their forward head posture. Thanks!

Kate

This article was incredibly eye opening and something I won’t soon forget! Like most people, I’m guilty of holding my head forward also. I often find that the muscles in my neck and shoulders are tense, tight, and feel very tired, and often leading to headaches, for no apparent reason. Or, so I thought. I just thought it was from stress, even without feeling stressed. Now I’ll be more conscious of the positioning of my head whenever my neck and shoulders are feeling strained and overworked.. Thank you!

Angela Medina

An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. I can personally attest to the problems that FHP can create. I worked as an executive assistant for three years and amongst EA’s and others sitting all day, FHP is a huge problem. I eventually was injuried went on disability for a neck sprain that has taken over a year to stop hurting (constant headaches, radiating numbness in both arms, pain while driving, pain while sitting and in front of the computer and so on and so forth). It took traction, acupuncture, physical therapy, lidocaine injections, antiflammatories, and chiropractic… Read more »

swagata saha

I can absolutely relate to this. I’m a victim of FHP ( Forward Head Posture). As the head moves forward the center of gravity shifts and the upper body drifts backward to compensate that. Finally the hips tilt forward to compensate the upper body shift and this whole shifting buisness creates a whole lot of pain in different parts of the body. I tend to suffer from migrane a lot.Trying to follow a neutral posture profile keeping shoulder, hips ,ankles in a straight line. Will try to incorporate breath via diaphragm from now on. Great post. Thank u.

silvia marisol

Such important information! I am going to refer to my head as the “bowling ball” to remind me of it’s weight;, and to remind me & those I’m instructing, of that 90% of the brain’s energy output that is being used up in just trying to keep us aligned! The Yoga Tune Up ® therapy ball sequence for the scalenes is an AMAZING and wonderful stretch and TENSION RELEASE.

Sherri

I loved this article and think it is so important! It’s a habit that many of us, including myself, are guilty of in our daily postures.The most significant point the article made me think about is the effect of time… walking around head forward. Bad posture is one thing, but years of bad posture is another, and serious. Who would have known of the possible physical ailments due to what – bad posture? It seems so simple to solve, but as some may know just sitting straight in a chair upright can be excruciating. I believe this article highlights that… Read more »