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How to Correct Forward Head Posture

Authored by: Janell Strupp, Physical Therapist Specializing in Counterstrain

Forward Head Posture (FHP) may be an underlying root cause of many chronic problems. Consider this list of 10 common problems which can be a result of chronic forward head posture.

  1. Headaches
  2. TMJ Dysfunction
  3. “Knots” in the Neck Area
  4. “Rocks” in the Shoulders
  5. “Sore” Chest/Upper Back Muscles
  6. Poor Sleep
  7. Irritability
  8. Chronic Arching Neck or Arms
  9. Numbness/Tingling of Arms/Hands
  10. Facial Pain or Neuralgia


DEFINITION OF FORWARD HEAD POSTURE: FHP results from either repetitive forward head movements or frequent static positioning of the head in front of the shoulder, looking down. Proper postural alignment finds the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles all falling along the same vertical central plum-line. The relatively heavy head must rest directly on the neck column, like balancing a golf ball on a tee. In FHP, the head juts ahead of the shoulders, which can throw the rest of the body out of alignment. Our modern lifestyles contribute greatly to this condition.


CAUSE AND EFFECT: FHP can be caused by a multitude of things. This list contains 5 of the more common ones, although these are not the only possible causes.

  1. Looking down toward your hands while texting, referred to as “Text Neck”
  2. Sleeping with a pillow that’s too thick
  3. Sitting with rounded shoulders in a hunched back position
  4. Driving with our head more than 2-3 inches from the headrest
  5. Carrying a backpack or heavy purse slung over one shoulder

Reflexive protective spasm can occur in any tissue of the body as a result of abnormal, sustained tension. When the neck must hold upright a forward-leaning head, resultant reflexive tightening of the fascia to protect you and essentially “save your life” can be triggered by the unnatural forward head position. Once reflex protective spasm is triggered, it persists, spreads and forms diagnostic tender points that are difficult to “turn off.” This may subconsciously continue to pull the body further into the abnormal postural state, causing a decrease in blood flow and an increase in painful nerve firing. With a persistent state of reflexive spasm, tight and weakened muscles can be a primary driver of long term muscle strain. Which can show up as disc herniation, arthritis, inflammation, or pinched nerves.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Once a potential root cause is identified, the next step is to correct the source. One way to get started is to follow the principle of returning the body to homeostasis. That is, rebalancing what is imbalanced. During a course of physical therapy at Total Health Nutrition Center, you will be evaluated and treated with specialized manual techniques to quiet the reflex protective spasm affecting any system of the body (muscles, ligaments, bones, organs, arteries, veins, lymphatic vessels and nerves). You’ll also be instructed on an in-home program. This will help carry over your pain relief and improve your posture by stretching, re-educating (strengthening) or stabilizing certain muscle groups.

CONCLUSION: FHP leads to deficiency, excess and stagnation in the body. FHP over-lengthens the upper back (excess), which causes shortening of the pectoral muscles (deficiency). This leads to impinged tissues (stagnation), contributing to chronic pain. Dysfunction results when the body chronically continues to produce spasm in an effort to protect you from perceived threat posed by the unbalanced posture. Sessions of physical therapy including Fascial Counterstrain will release the tissue in spasm and the corresponding painful tender points, gently unloading the injured structures and restoring homeostasis. Thereby, teaching strategies to prevent future imbalances in your body.

Call 262-251-2929 to schedule a no cost, no obligation 15-minute Phone Consultation to see how we can help! Learn more about physical therapy treatments offered at Total Health Nutrition Center here.

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