When most people make an effort to correct their posture, they sit up a little straighter and pull back their shoulders; however, they are forgetting one major component of a healthy posture—their head! If your head is not properly positioned, the effort you are putting into keeping your back straight and shoulders in line is not maximized to its potential.
What Proper Posture Looks Like
When standing, your body should be aligned in the same vertical line from your head to your feet. When sitting, driving, or walking your body should remain in this general upright and straight position. It is important to make sure your head is sitting above your neck and shoulders with your chin parallel to the floor; your head should not be leaning forward or to the side.
Effects and Symptoms of Poor Posture
Your head is surprisingly heavy for something supported and connected to only your neck—10 pounds! However, the atlas and axis were designed to hold this weight. When your head is leaning over the front of your body, it pulls your neck and shoulders forward with it and displaces the 10 pounds and puts pressure on joints, tendons, and muscles that are not equipped to carry that burden. As a result, you may experience discomfort immediately. Over time, repetitive poor posture can cause stiff neck and shoulders and a desire to constantly “crack” your back as well as pain in your back, neck, and shoulders.
The upper half of your body is not the only place you may experience symptoms. Consistent bad posture can cause a ripple effect throughout the whole body. Your lower back, hips, legs, and feet will have to accommodate the displaced weight of your head—which can lead to pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints of these areas.
Poor posture may also cause:
- Tension headaches
- Insomnia, or general difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Whole-body aches/pains
- Numbness or tingling in your arms
Poor posture can intensify symptoms of other conditions. For example, when your posture has your shoulders rolled inward and your body leaning forward, there is excessive pressure and restriction on the diaphragm and intercoastal muscles, which can complicate breathing patterns, worsen asthma, and reduce the amount of oxygen you are able to inhale.
Recognizing Causes of Poor Head Posture
Once bad posture habits are developed, it takes time to break the body of settling into the wrong position. To start, you’ll need to recognize when you are not using proper posture techniques and then correct your mistake.
Habits that lead to bad posture include:
- Texting, viewing, or reading on a mobile device
- Looking down while reading a book or the newspaper
- Working on your laptop in your lap—causing you to look down
- Leaning your head forward while driving, sitting, or watching TV
- Sitting leaned forward in a chair, often with elbows supported on the desk or table
- Standing or sitting for prolonged periods
- Carrying a backpack or purse over one shoulder
- Leaning forward or to the side to compensate for a heavy bag
Can My Head Posture Be Corrected?
Yes, but it will take some work, effort, and patience to consciously make healthy posture changes. We may be biased, but we also recommend requesting a consultation with one of our massage therapists to see how a neuromuscular massage can help you to retrain your spine and muscles to favor a healthy posture.