You’ve been chastised your entire life to sit up straight and stop slouching. You know that keeping your spine straight and tall reduces back pain. You’ve probably also heard that good posture makes you look younger and thinner. Did you know that posture – particularly how you hold your head – can negatively impact your health in many ways?
Sitting and standing with your neck extended so that your head is sticking out beyond your chest is referred to as a “forward head posture.” General slouching can cause this posture. Other causes are sitting hunched in front of a computer or bending your head down to stare at a phone or tablet for long periods of time. Try it out: pick up your phone and scroll through Facebook or start a text. Are you sitting up straight with your head in line with your spine and your chin up? Chances are, your shoulders are hunched and your head is leaning forward and down.
The most obvious result of forward head posture is back pain. Your spine is meant to be straight. When your posture is out of alignment, your muscles have to work harder, which causes pain. For example, if you constantly stand with your weight on your left foot, your lower spine will be pulled to one side. This pulls your hips off balance and forces the muscles in your lower back to compensate for the weight imbalance. This extra effort results in sore, stiff muscles.
But it’s not only a sore back you should worry about. Recent studies have found a link between temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder and a head-forward posture. More than three million Americans suffer from TMJ, a painful condition resulting in clicking, pain and locking in the jaw joint. The forward head posture puts additional pressure on your facial joints, including your jaw. This added pressure can lead to TMJ.
The extra tension in your facial and neck muscles caused by a forward head posture often causes headaches. Tension headaches caused by poor posture can last for long periods of time and become chronic.
Considering the human head weighs about 10 pounds, it’s not surprising that a head forward posture can cause so many problems for your body. Fortunately, many of those issues are relatively simple to correct.
The first, and most obvious, fix is also the most difficult. You have to consciously remind yourself to correct your posture. Sit and stand with your spine erect and your chin up. This can be tricky if you sit in front of a computer all day for work, and it may require you adjusting or even replacing your desk chair.
Improving your posture, however, may not be enough to eradicate the pain from years of forward head posture. A massage therapist can apply the body work techniques that will reverse the damage and reduce your pain. A good therapist will also analyze your posture and provide you with self-care skills to maintain proper posture and keep your body in good shape between appointments.
Call me if you’re suffering from hip, shoulder and back pain, tension headaches and pain and clicking in your jaw. I can work with you to alleviate your pain and help you regain a correct natural posture.