How do we fix forward head posture?
Inspired by the reminder that my head is a bit forward at a recent workshop, I set out to work on it for myself, my classes and clients.
If you want more info about what forward head posture is and why it’s important, check out last week’s article.
Here are the four main steps I have been using to work on forward head posture.
Step 1: Increase awareness and build alignment
For this first step you need a ring. Hold one of the handles against the back of the skull and hold the other in front of the forehead. Then exert equal and opposite pressure against both handles. (You can also hold a band at the base of your skull.)
It’s not necessary to press hard, just to use enough pressure to keep the head on top of the spine—enough pressure to create a bit of a double chin in front (not forced) and to lengthen the back of the neck. This engages the deep neck flexors and releases the sub-occipital muscles at the back of the skull.
After pressing and releasing six or seven times remove the ring. Many feel like their head is further back in space and lighter. I asked my classes to imagine they have the ring on for the rest of the class and beyond!
Try putting on the ring again. Then try some cervical spinal motions, like flexion and extension, rotation and side bending. See if you can keep constant contact with the ring as you move. You may be surprised at how challenging that is—and how free your head feels afterward!
By the way, another great way to release the sub-occipital muscles is to place a weighted ball at the base of the skull and make very small and gentle nods.
Step 2: Mobilize the blades and the spine.
Any number of exercises can mobilize the blades and spine. Examples include protracting and retracting the shoulders, shoulder shrugs, prone front crawl, cat/cow, pelvic tilts, spine rotation and, side-bending. Lateral arm arcs have the added benefit of opening the chest, which is often tight for people with forward head posture.
Step 3: Strengthen the back of the body
Muscles in the back lengthen to accommodate the forward shift of the head. Again, there are any number of ways to shorten and strengthen these muscles Try exercises like robot arms, V arms, prone head hover to spine extension, prone shoulder extension (with weighted balls). Bridge variations are also recommended. The more support from the bottom, the less strain there is at the top. The more support from the back, the less forward movement of the head.
Step 4: Strengthen the core
Again there are many exercises to choose from. Make sure to include exercises that require a connection at the arm pits/side of ribs to strengthen serratus anterior; for example, quadruped arm/leg reach, quadruped shoulder blade glides and plank are good bets. Cue width across the chest and upper back to avoid further tightening of the pec muscles. Side bridge is another excellent choice because it works the obliques, glute med and adductors.
Can we really change forward head posture?
Change takes time but it does happen. In my case, there are days when I look in the mirror and I can really see a difference.
Keep in mind that it has taken a lot of time to build the current pattern. Changing that pattern also needs time. Remember, too, that awareness is half the battle!
Over to you…
What exercises have you tried for clients with a forward head posture? Please share in the comments section below so we can all add to our toolboxes!
Jane Aronovitch is a Pilates & Movement teacher. She is also a writer and author. Her book, Get on it: BOSU Balance Trainer, is available at Body Harmonics, Amazon and Chapters Indigo.
“I love making ideas clear so teachers can directly apply what they learn in concrete and practical ways – and people can make connections, feel better, move with ease, and have fun.”