It may surprise you to know that a simple posture error can actually worsen or even cause osteoporosis. But amazingly, it does – and in a big way.
That’s why today we’re going to talk about a common posture problem known as Forward Head Posture, or FHP. It’s not only unsightly; it damages your bones and your overall health.
The good news is that you can easily prevent and correct FHP. So I’m excited to show you simple exercises that counteract FHP and the damage it causes.
It Starts With Your Head
Today’s modern culture has seen an increase in the incidence of Forward Head Posture. As we text on our smartphones, tap on our laptops, or type on our desktop computers, we’re unconsciously leaning our heads forward.
The same posture problem can occur when you lie on the couch or sit in front of the television. Even driving a car can cause FHP.
As the head leans more and more forward, the resulting pain and tension cause your body to compensate with even worse posture and misalignment. Over time, this position can become permanent, and the head stays thrust forward even when you’re engaging in other activities.
What may not seem like a big deal is actually a significant problem as far as your health is concerned – particularly your bone health.
You see, your spine follows your head, and where your spine goes, your whole body follows. Amazingly, FHP raises your risk for fractures and may lead to low bone density. It can also result in a host of health problems, including neck and shoulder pain, headaches, impaired nerve function and decreased lung capacity.
Gravity: Your Osteoporosis Friend…And Enemy
Savers know that when you exercise, the force of gravity on bone increases bone density. But what you may not realize is that the action of gravity on a forward-thrust head is, frankly, torture for your musculoskeletal system.
Here’s why: the average human head weighs between 8 and 10 pounds. For every inch that your head is tilted forward, it adds another 10 pounds to the weight your neck is holding up. So if your head is pushed forward just 3 inches, that’s 30 extra pounds!
A good way to look at it is to imagine a bowling ball balanced on top of a pole. If the pole is straight up, gravity helps the ball stay in balance with little effort. But if you tilt the pole forward, the bowling ball will fall off unless you apply some sort of force to hold it there. At that point, you’re working against, rather than with, gravity.
Your neck, head, and shoulder muscles are constantly pulling up on your head if you have FHP. The excessive muscle strain produces lactic acid, which results in burning pain and cramping.
This Kind Of Muscle Pull Is Not Good For Your Bones
The resulting misalignment spreads from your head to your spine, and then to your pelvis and eventually throughout your body. This means impact and friction are occurring in all the wrong places when you move, creating pain and inflammation instead of increasing bone density.
Skeletal misalignment can actually decrease bone density. Your bones are made to respond to motion and gravity by increasing their strength, but when that motion means muscles act on the wrong spots, the areas that need it the most do not receive the beneficial impact of motion. And your bones suffer.
Forward Head Posture Increases Fracture Risk
I mentioned earlier that fracture risk increases with FHP. A University of California study found that this type of poor posture – called hyperkyphosis in the study – had an increased risk of fracture in study subjects with FHP regardless of past fracture history and bone mineral density.1
One aspect of this could be that FHP throws you off balance, making you more prone to falls and subsequent fractures.
FHP And Dowager’s Hump (Kyphosis)
While researchers referred to FHP as “hyperkyphosis,” FHP is not the same thing as kyphosis, or Dowager’s Hump. FHP can certainly exacerbate this condition, however, and poor posture plays a role in both. In fact, many of the health problems associated with FHP are similar to those caused by kyphosis, including…
Reduced Lung Capacity
When your head sags forward, your chest becomes compressed and your lungs can no longer fill up with air. Try it – lean your head forward and down and try to draw a deep breath. It’s impossible!
This is important, because deep breathing alkalizes the body. If you can’t get enough air, your body is not sufficiently oxygenated and a toxic, acidic environment results.
Alkalinity is so vital to preventing and reversing osteoporosis that tone of the main goals of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is to help you achieve an alkaline pH. Because in an acidic environment, your bones just can’t retain the necessary calcium and therefore, become weak and prone to fracture.
Other Health Problems Caused By FHP
As you’ll read below, your whole body suffers when your posture is poor. Other health problems associated with FHP include:
- Tension headaches
- Increased blood pressure
- Herniated discs
- Vision problems (eye strain results from having to keep looking straight ahead when the head is pushed down and forward)
- Pinched nerves
- Poor balance
- Compromised body systems that rely on the proper functioning of the sympathetic nervous system, such as the endocrine, immune, and digestive systems
While it’s not a health problem per se, another consideration is that FHP gives you a stooped, aged appearance that isn’t good for your self-image.
Additionally, FHP causes pressure on the front of the cervical vertebrae, putting pressure on the front of the discs that cushion the bone. This can cause the discs to bulge and push against the spinal cord.
How To Correct FHP
As I mentioned earlier, this is a fixable problem. These three exercises show you how to correct Forward Head Posture. It’s a good idea to do them several times a day. As you make these exercises a part of your daily exercise routine, they will teach your body to have better posture throughout the day.
- Sit up straight but not stiffly. Use a mirror if possible to see if you are aligned properly.
- Use your neck muscles to pull your chin inward until your ears are over your shoulders. It may sound funny, but imagine someone is pushing on your nose.
- Keep your eyes and head level. Your head should glide back, not up or down.
- Hold for 5 seconds and return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times.
Chin Tuck While Lying Down
This variation helps shape your neck’s natural curvature and decompresses your cervical joints.
- Lie flat on your back on the floor or an exercise mat.
- Slowly lower your chin toward your chest as if nodding your head. Keep the back of your head on the floor.
- Hold this for 5 seconds.
- Return to the beginning position and repeat 10 times.
Shoulder Drop And Squeeze
Many people find that their shoulders creep up around their ears during the day due to tension, which contributes to FHP. This exercise helps release the shoulders and tone the muscles to help hold your head in the right position.
- Sitting up straight, drop your shoulders and let your arms hang down.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, making sure you are not pulling them upward.
- Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and release.
- Repeat this 10 times.
Good posture is essential for preventing osteoporosis, and one of the easiest ways to correct it is to be aware of what your head and neck are doing. I hope these exercises are a helpful addition to your fitness routine!
Till next time,
1 Huang, MH, et al. “Hyperkyphotic Posture and Risk of Future Osteoporotic Fractures: The Rancho Bernardo Study.” Journal of Bone Mineral Research. March 2006. 21(3): 419-423. Web. http://www.chiro.org/LINKS/ABSTRACTS/Hyperkyphotic_Posture_and_Risk.shtml