Regular readers of this, or really, any, chiropractic blog will know that we spend an awful lot of our time cautioning people to keep their heads up and try to avoid the “head forward” posture which causes so many problems. Today, we present you a challenge!!
A bowling ball and a toothpick…
The average human head weighs about 8 pounds – 8 pounds does not sound like such a lot, but remember that each day we all walk around with a bowling ball (our head) balancing on a toothpick (our neck) – perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration, but what’s critical to understand is that the forces applied to our neck can be significant. Our heads, after all, are significantly larger than our necks! We are designed this way for a reason – this kind of structure allows for an incredible range of motion for our heads – can you think of any other part of the body which can move even nearly as much? Even under the best circumstances, this places a lot of stress on our spine – 8 pounds pressing down all day really adds up but this isn’t where the issue lies. No, the problem is that the effective weight of your head, when not carried properly with good posture, becomes very much more – because of the way that lever arms work, leaning forward even just 15 degrees pushes that weight up to 30 pounds, and with a 30 degree tilt its closer to 40 pounds – and that’s more than the neck can comfortably handle all day. No wonder your neck aches!
The ”forward head”
Once upon a time, in a history far, far away, there was a time when phones, laptops, tablets and even the internet did not exist … no, we can hardly remember it either and we wouldn’t want to go back… but there was a time when having your “head forward” might have been considered laziness, today, it’s more complex. While there’s a lot we can do to improve posture throughout the day, we do now rely an awful lot on devices which tend to cause us to adopt a less then healthy posture, and in 2022 it seems totally unrealistic to tell people to “use your devices less”. After all, since the pandemic many of us now use these devices for work, today we literally cannot live without them.
So, what can we do? The reality is that driving a car, working on the computer, and using a tablet/phone all usually result in less than ideal posture. And when you start to lean forward, it places a tremendous amount of extra pressure on the discs in your neck and spine. This can cause increased compression and lead to pain. Even just a few inches of forward head posture can double or triple the amount of stress on the spinal joints in your neck – for every inch of forward head posture, an additional 10 pounds of weight is added to your spine, catch 22?
Perhaps not – our devices are responsible for some of our problems, but we can also leverage them to become part of the solution! One simple step is to set yourself a “posture reminder”…
One easy and effective way to address poor posture is simply to become aware of it – as humans, we’re easily distracted and poor at remembering these kinds of things – but your phone, well it’s pretty good at that kind of thing! So here’s the challenge – set yourself a reminder on your phone every 30 minutes, and each time, just take a moment and notice if your shoulders are rounding, the head has moved forward, and upper back is hunched over. If you see yourself slouching into this posture, simply, consciously, adjust your position, and if possible, get up and take a stretch.
Sounds kind of annoying? Well, it is, a bit – but so is neck pain! Here’s the thing – it takes about 29 days to form a habit, so if you can keep this process up for this long you stand a good chance of reprogramming yourself to be far more aware of your posture throughout the day, and that’s a huge win. So, we challenge you!
 The Physiology of the Joints, Volume III. 6th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2007.
 Myofascial trigger points, neck mobility and forward head posture in unilateral migraine. Cephalalgia 2006