In normal head and neck posture, the center of the shoulder joints are located vertically in line with the base of the skull behind the ear while the muscles of the back side of the neck act to maintain balance and keep the head in the correct position.
Sitting at a computer or using a smartphone for long lengths of time can lead to a muscular imbalance - referred to as an "upper-crossed syndrome" (UCS) - where specific muscles in the upper back, neck, and the chest muscles are too tight. These hypertonic muscles "cross" with weakness of the deep neck flexors in the front of the neck and the middle and lower trapezius of the mid-back. This results in the classic forward head posture and rounded shoulders often associated with poor posture or "text neck."
Fortunately, forward head posture can be remedied with exercises to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the overly tight muscles. Here are a few:
- Perform a standard push-up (from knees or toes) and when in the "up" position, push further towards the ceiling so you can feel your shoulder blades spread further apart.
- Lie on your stomach on a bench and raise your arms overhead into a "Y"; follow with a "T" by lowering your arms to horizontal or 90 degrees; move to a "W" by bending your elbows to 90 degrees and draw your upper arms towards your side; follow that with an "L" by placing your upper arms at your sides and keep the elbows bent at 90 degrees then rotate your forearms as far as possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, DON'T shrug your shoulders, HOLD each position for five to ten seconds and repeat the series two to three times.
- Tuck your chin inward and nod; add some resistance by gripping your chin with your thumb and forefinger. Provide resistance in both directions of the nod, up and down. As a posture re-trainer, keep your chin-tucked and the back of your neck elongated during the day.
- Lie on your side, elbow bent at 90 degrees; use a hand weight and raise it slowly toward the ceiling and lower it back down for five to ten slow reps; repeat on the other side.
- Stand in a doorway and grasp the door jamb with your hand or elbow; slowly turn your body away from the door jamb until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles. Start with your hand/elbow lower on the jamb for the stretch and then move it higher up the jamb and repeat; continue upwards until its overhead. Repeat several times on each side.
- Look down and bend your neck to the RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull the head to a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor. Repeat on the other side. Hold five to ten seconds and repeat two to three times.
- Look down, bend your neck, and rotate your head to the RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull your head towards a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor. Repeat on the other side. Hold five to ten seconds and repeat two to three times.
Upper crossed syndrome, text neck, and forward head posture can also lend to joint fixations in the cervical and thoracic spine, which can be addressed by one of our chiropractic clinicians here at QOMC with spinal manipulative therapy. We can also walk you through these and other exercises to restore normal posture depending on your unique situation.