Forward Head Posture Correction Tips

One of the most common postural problems is forward head posture. When we regularly perform activities that focus our attention directly in front of us (e.g. computer work) a muscle imbalance in the neck and shoulders develops. This imbalance pulls the head forward and out of alignment with the rest of the body.

Forward Head
Good Posture
Forward Head Posture Correction 1
Forward Head Correction 2

Never Too Early To Correct Bad Posture

The body is very good at adapting to the positions we spend the most time in. When we are constantly using bad posture the muscles and connective tissue in our bodies adjusts to make it easier for us to stay in those bad positions! The earlier you start correcting your posture, the easier it is change.

Forward head posture is a habitual problem, meaning it’s caused by bad habits performed over several years. 

This posture not only looks bad, but leads to a number of problems like neck pain, headaches, shoulder issues, and jaw problems. With the weight of the head being carried in front of the body the muscles in the back of the neck have to work harder leading to chronic neck tension. The change in neck alignment also causes changes lower down in the spine resulting in hyperkyhosis (or hunchback) in the thoracic spine and anterior pelvic tilting in the low back and pelvis.

If that doesn’t convince you to start working on your posture, there’s also some interesting research being conducted now showing that our posture affects not only our body but our brain as well. The way we stand and hold ourselves certainly affects how others see us, but it may also affect how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy explains in this video how posture influences our behavior. Lastly, from a cosmetic standpoint having forward head posture simply doesn’t look good. The good news is that forward head posture is reversible.

A quick way to test for forward head posture is the wall test

  1. Stand with your head and back against a wall with your heels about 6 inches away
  2. See how many fingers can be placed between the back of your neck and the wall
  3. If you can fit more than three fingers back there (meaning your neck is more than 3 fingers’ width or about 2 inches away from the wall) then you likely have some degree of forward head posture.

Don’t feel bad if you do. I’d estimate that around 90% of the adult population does too, myself included. It’s all part of the world we live in with hours spent in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car. Being aware of the problem is key to correcting forward head positioning and stopping or reversing the long-term effects of poor neck posture.

Correcting Forward Head Posture

Restoring alignment to a neutral posture helps relieve neck pain and improves the overall health of your spine. Studies have shown forward head correction exercises are helpful for several conditions ranging from scoliosis to nerve root pain.  

  • For computer work position the monitor so that the top third of the screen is level with your eyes and placed between 18 and 24 inches away from your face.
  • In sitting, whether at your desk, in a car, or on the couch, make sure to sit straight and maintain a curve in your lower back. Try to find chairs that have some amount of built-in low back support. Keeping the lumbar spine in good alignment will help keep your head from drifting forward.
  • Don’t sleep with multiple pillows. We spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping so it’s important to not reinforce bad alignment during this time. Often I’ll see elderly patients who are uncomfortable or who have difficulty lying flat on their back without pillows because they’ve lost so much range of motion in their necks.

Exercises for Forward Head Correction

Chin tuck: This is one of the most effective ways to restore good alignment and it’s easy to do just about anywhere. Stand or sit as straight as possible and imagine someone is pushing your nose toward the back of your head. Using your neck muscles pull your head back while keeping your eyes level.

This should bring your ears directly over your shoulders and put your head in good alignment like the picture above on the right. Try not to move your head up or down, but instead let it glide back. Hold for 5 seconds then return to the start position and repeat

Chin tuck in supine: Lie on your back without anything behind your head. Try to nod your head, bringing your chin closer to your chest, without lifting the back of your head off the bed or floor. Hold for 5 seconds then return to the start position and repeat

Both of these exercises can be performed throughout the day. It’s better to do a small number of repetitions more frequently (like 10 every hour) then trying to do a lot all at once. Remember, the posture you have now took years to develop so it will take time and practice to restore good posture.

Bonus Tips:

If you’re having trouble visualizing the chin tuck, try this: place the back of your hand underneath your chin with your palm facing down. Now imagine your hand is a table and try to slide your chin in along that “table”.

Another piece of advice that I heard and has stuck with me is that when you’re walking around pretend you are a superhero wearing a cape around your neck. Hold your head the way you would if someone was behind you pulling on the cape.

Good posture and superhero status, a great combination.

Forward head posture is easy to correct once you understand how to get your head and neck in a good position. After that it just takes practice. While you’re working on getting better posture also think about what your lower back is doing. Take a look to see if you’re pelvis is tilted and what you can do to improve that. 

Comments

  1. Dina says

    I have a forward head and my upper back is starting to become rounded. I think it’s from sitting with horrible posture through my teens and twenties. I never thought I had a problem but when I look at old photographs of myself it’s really obvious that my posture was never that good. I’m afraid now it will be hard to correct. If I start working on this how long will it take to get back to a good posture (if it’s even possible)? Thanks!

    • Mr. T says

      It shouldn’t be long…I gues couple month will be enough…Do not forget that you were sitting in bad posture for ages :), which means you will need time for correction it

  2. Tara says

    Ha funny, it has a name. I’ve always called it Heavy Head Syndrome because that is what is feels like. I think my name sounds better. how do I go about getting the name changed, lol. On all seriousness though I am very thankful I ran across a link to your profile. All of your articles will hopefully be a lot of help to me. Thanks so much!

  3. Lori says

    Just want to thank you for your website. I have had knee issues (due to patellofemoral syndrome), forward head posture, rounded shoulders, and forward pelvic tilt (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) and had never found any articles explaining they were all related. Your articles, pictures and corrective exercises were so helpful. Thank you!!!

  4. Stephan Casey says

    I don’t understand whats so great about the chin tuck. If we’re supposed to have lordosis at the back of our neck why force our necks straight to fix a forward head. Wouldn’t it be better to just tilt our heads back instead of letting them stretch forward

  5. James Speck says

    With a forward head the lower part of the cervical spine is flexed (moved forward) while the upper part is extended. Basically you can look at it as an exaggeration of the normal lordosis. So moving in the direction of flattening the curve brings us closer to the natural lordosis.

    If you look at the pictures in the post you can see with the forward head posture there is increased space between the chin and the chest, and less space between the back of the head and the back of the neck. I like the chin tuck because it simultaneously strengthens the muscles in the front and stretches the shortened muscles in the back of the neck.

    • Stephan Casey says

      You’re right that does make sense. Also, just another question about posture. When people say pull shoulders down. I feel like I’ve been pulling my shoulders too far down to the point where there is no support left for my neck. Would it not be better to have a more neutral shoulder position then roll your shoulder a bit back and down but comfortably. I feel like stretching shoulders towards the floor is not helping

  6. Martin says

    Hi I have forward head posture and a bit of a double chin even though I’m not fat. if i correct do the chin tuck and fix my posture will my double chin get bigger?

    Thank you

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