My name is Kim Romaner, and I’m the blog editor for Physical Performance Solutions. Today I’ll be interviewing CEO Lori Peacock on correcting Forward Head Posture, or FHP.
I have to admit that I’m conducting this interview on a somewhat personal basis, because many years ago I had a pretty bad car accident that left me with a bunch of neck and back issues. I also work on a computer for a great portion of my day (maybe you do, too!), and I find myself constantly correcting my posture as I realize that my shoulders have slumped forward, my chin is up and my head is back, which is absolutely the worst posture in the world for me.
I’ve read an enormous amount of material, online and off, on how to correct this, but it didn’t really work for me on a consistent basis until Lori straightened me out.
If you or someone you know is struggling with neck and back pain, then take a read. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful.
Kim: Hi, Lori! Thanks for taking some time to talk today.
Lori: Always a pleasure, Kim!
Kim: So, as you know, my neck hurts quite a bit due to a long-ago injury combined with my daily work habits. I sit a lot, I use a computer constantly, I might be set up ergonomically well or not, etcetera.
Lori: Welcome to 99% of the world! They’re now saying that sitting is the new cancer; that is, cancer risk dramatically increases the more time you spend in a sitting position. This is, unfortunately, the case for many, and it’s a challenging problem to solve.
Kim: It has been for me. The “experts” say that you need to keep your head in a neutral position. My problem has been, I couldn’t ever really tell when my head was in a neutral position.
Lori: Most people can’t. Learning to feel what your body is doing does not come naturally to most people. And for one person it will feel one way, and for another, a different way. This is one of my pet peeves about reading all of the how-to’s on the Internet and watching instructional YouTube videos. Many people learn to perform the wrong, unintended move.
Kim: So, I read online that I’m supposed to push my chin forward and back in an exaggerated way. How does that help?
Lori: Well…resolving a forward head posture doesn’t necessarily begin with the head. We need to look at the whole body first. All things being equal, and the individual does not have a skeletal challenge, such as ankylosing spondylitis, and no other “issues” that would limit reducing a forward head posture, then, when sitting at your desk, the first thing to check and possibly correct is your pelvic alignment.
If someone is sitting with a 90-degree hip flexion angle, their pelvis is not in a neutral position, but rather more into what is commonly known as “posterior pelvic tilt.” A seated posterior pelvic tilt mal-aligns the spine and actually increases a forward head posture. Therefore, increasing the hip angle, by placing the knees slightly lower than your hips, without leaning back, increases the hip angle and there an individual can learn to know their “neutral pelvic” alignment.
Once the pelvis is in a position to allow for optimal spinal alignment—close to when you are standing—then you can work on your forward head position.
Now, to speak to where you read that tucking your chin is a good exercise to correct a forward head posture; well, maybe yes, maybe no. In the clinic, most individuals do not know how to correctly perform a “chin tuck.” They lower their chin, rather than pushing the chin back. This is a kinesthetic type of exercise where you need to internally feel the difference between the two movements, then pick the chosen movement.
And, I repeat that what I am saying is never a blanket statement for all individuals. The word “individual” is the key elemental word. All of us may not be able to perform the “chin tuck” as many Internet sites explain due to past injuries or disease processes. Remember how you told me that you have numbness in your right fingers?
Kim: Sure do.
Lori: That’s a symptom that can be worsened by overworking the neck or moving it in a particular way if the tissues are not capable of that movement at that time. Having said that, pain in the shoulders and upper arms can also result when we don’t correct our posture and sustain these aberrant postures for long periods of time, as I know they do for you when you overuse your neck. Remember, static postures are the worst repetitive motion!
Kim: Yeah, sitting at the computer all day is the worst! Although I have to say bike riding for long periods can do me in, too.
Lori: Right! Same kind of thing. We don’t want to illicit these types of symptoms while trying to solve the problem! That’s going backwards.
Kim: I’ve heard you speak before on how “one size fits one.” I may have to find the correct position for my head using a different methodology than someone else with different issues, right?
Lori: Absolutely. And I love to repeat myself – we are individuals with different DNA, different life experiences. Our tissues are a direct reflection of that; therefore, what may work for someone, may not work for you.
Kim: Any tips on how someone can check for a neutral head position themselves?
Lori: One tool you can use is what I call “the poor man’s biofeedback.” If you can, practice sitting correctly in front of a mirror to learn what a proper neutral pelvis may look on you. From there you would follow your spine to your head. Then observe and feel what that looks like. There is no easy fix. Attempting to change years of life in one week is unrealistic. So, change your mind and begin to enjoy the process of “relearning!”
Kim: Great tip. Never thought of checking how my pelvis is aligned to be a part of a forward head position.
Lori: Again, this is a whole body thing. The head must sit on a stable and correct surface for it to be correct. Someone with experience can help you get to the right position so you know how it feels in one lesson, really.