In the last post we talked about ROUNDED SHOULDERS, today we will look at its usual partner in crime, FORWARD HEAD POSTURE
Typically, the head should sit in a nice neutral position (the ears should sit in line with the shoulders in a nice neutral spine), Forward Head Posture sometime called “text neck” or “scholar’s neck” is where the head sits forward in relation to that neutral position.
Sometimes this type of posture can be a contributor or a cause of headaches, neurological symptoms like tingling in the arms or even amplify that dull aching pain between the shoulder blades.
There are an increasing number of studies that are trying to identify the possible long-term effects of this posture, especially as our use of mobile devices increases.
One study looked at the amount of force put through the muscles and joints in the neck at differing degrees of forward head position. It found that even a 15 degree increase adds more than double the amount of force those parts of the body are subject to, which can cause imbalances that lead to pain and tightness, or even increase the early onset of degenerative joint diseases.
Remember in earlier posts how I have said the body is complex, well as I explain this I am going to try make it as easy to understand. When looking at the forward head posture generally a Manual Therapist will decide between treating “short” & “long” muscles. We will do this through assessment and testing and may even find other areas or patterns of compensation, but for the purpose of this article we are going to take SHORT vs LONG.
“Short” is how we describe the muscles that are locked a shortened position (sometime referred to as tight). It is these muscles we want to look at ‘opening up’ so we can allow them to move through their full range of motion.
“Long” on the other hand are muscles that locked in that lengthened position (sometimes referred to as taught), it’s like the muscles are rubber bands stretched out and then held there all day.
So to restore your head and neck to a neutral position we want to look at encouraging the “short muscles” to lengthen by using stretching and muscle energy techniques and support strengthening the “long” muscles by prescribing exercise etc to do between your treatments.
When my clients present with this posture, the muscles I look to target are:
- Sternocleidomastoid (SCM)
- Upper Trapezius
- Levator Scapula
- Sub-Occipital Muscles
- Lower Cervical Erector Spinae Group
As I mentioned earlier this is usually related to the rounded shoulders from last week and there are also other common patterns that I would look to treat.
The biggest reason for the success in my treatments though some when clients actively follow through with recommendations of stretching or strengthening. I want to empower your health and well-being so the recommendations are not because I like giving homework but because we need to support the 1 hour treatment you have during the 40 plus hours you are at work, studying, driving or texting.
The two stretches that follow are targeting the Upper Trapezius and the Levator Scapula. These muscles affect movement in the neck but also in the scapula (remember the last post mentioned the scapula involvement?).
As I have written this series about the aches & pains of the office worker I thought it would be better to show you two stretches that you can do right from your office chair.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have used these techniques with clients, especially in seated corporate massage. The relief they get from this is fantastic and it is something they can take away with them once their quick 10 minute treatment is done.
For both of these stretches it is important to grab the underside of your chair, if you are unable to, you can also sit on that hand before engaging in the stretch. I recommend that you do these as well as the exercises and stretches I showed you in the last post at least twice a day to start.
Seated Upper Trapezius Stretch
It is important to not that you should hold the stretch for about 30-40 secs and do that 3 times on each side. Trying to get a deeper pain free stretch each repetition.
Seated Levator Scapula
For this stretch I suggest you start by looking forward. Then turn your head 45 degrees and then lower your chin to your chest before engaging in the stretch.
Like the Upper Trapezius Stretch – hold for 30-40 secs x 3 on each side.