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Forward head posture is a type of posture in which the head protrudes forward over the front of the body, extending the cervical spine, and in some cases flattening the normal concave curve found on the back of the neck. This is a very common posture problem, particularly because of the amount of time that many people spend on computers throughout the day, with the head tipped forward and the shoulders rounded; it may also be caused by poor posture while sleeping or driving. Over time, forward head posture can lead to pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and lead to a hyperkyphotic curve (hump) in the upper thoracic spine.
Ideally, perfect posture occurs when one's ears, shoulders, and hips are in a relatively straight line. This does not mean the spine itself is perfectly straight; there are three curves throughout the spine that help to relieve pressure and keep it in proper alignment. These are a concave curve in the lumbar spine, and a slight convex curve in the thoracic spine, as well as the slight curve in the cervical spine. All of these curves help to balance the others, so when one is compromised as in forward head posture, the entire spine can be affected, leading to back pain.
Experts say that for each inch that the head moves forward out of alignment in forward head posture, it adds ten pounds of weight to the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This weight continues to pull the head forward, making the poor posture worse. This can even lead to joint degeneration if the problem persists, as well as a rounding of the upper spine known as kyphosis. The muscles in the chest will compress and shorten, and many people will experience tension headaches or even numbness in the hands.
Forward head posture can be corrected with stretching, exercise, and always making sure to maintain proper posture when sitting or standing. Get up to take frequent breaks and walk around when sitting at a computer, stretching the arms over the head, opening and lifting the chest towards the ceiling. Do not simply bend the head backward, since this will just compress the cervical joints in the other direction. A doctor may be able to take x-rays and make recommendations for physical therapy that is specifically designed to correct posture; some people also find that visiting a chiropractor can be helpful.
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