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Forward Head Posture

 Forward Head Posture

 

A normal head posture is when, from the side view, the centre of the person’s ear is lined up with the centre of the shoulder. Forward head posture (FHP) occurs when the head moves forward from normal posture, with the head drooped forward, and the shoulders rounded. Here’s an example of proper alignment on the left, a 2” forward head posture in the centre, and a 4” FHP on the right.

 

This poor neck posture puts tremendous strain on the muscles of the back and neck. In fact, for every inch the head moves forward, it feels 10 pounds heavier to these muscles. So if your head is 2” forward, it’s like having a 20 pound bag slung around your neck. The suboccipital muscles are a group of eight muscles at the back of the neck that lift up your chin. These muscles become constantly tight, putting pressure on the suboccipital nerves. This can cause headaches at the base of the skull, or even sinus headaches. FHP can also flattens out the natural curve of the neck, creating accelerated joint degeneration in the cervical (neck) spine, which can lead to neck arthritis. And there is a host of other ailments in which FHP plays a big role: chronic lower back pain, stress-related ailments, spinal pain, especially between the shoulders, pulse and blood pressure problems, and even lung capacity. Forward head posture is very common among people who work at a computer or a desk most of the day, those who slouch down and read in bed, or people who have played contact sports such as football, and the spinal injuries that go along with such sports. Chronically tight muscles and poor flexibility can also lead to FHP and other postural problems.

 

What are some of the things you can do to relieve and correct FHP? In terms of training, I would first look for tight muscles and range of motion (ROM) to determine what muscle groups need stretching and exercises to improve ROM.

Next, it’s important to address the weak muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck. Lat pulldowns, rows, and shrugs all strengthen the weak back and shoulder muscles. Strengthening the lumbar (lower back) spine muscles can be done with spinal extensions, Alternate lift, or superman exercises. And don’t forget the abdominal muscle group, to increase strength in the torso and improve posture as well. Planks or other isometric exercises are a good place to start; however, crunches and sit-ups are not recommended because these exercises can encourage forward head posture.

 

Correcting your posture is key to change here. Here are some ideas:

 

1.Check your ergonomics in your car, at your desk, on your sofa – is your spine long? If not, focus on bracing or “tucking in” your abdominals, lifting your chest slightly, and keeping the shoulder blades pulled down. You may need to adjust your desk chair and/or the height of your computer monitor, and reposition yourself to achieve a tall spine.

2.Perform chin retractions. Looking straight ahead, drop the chin slightly, and push your chin backward with a finger. Hold for a few seconds, and repeat several times. Do this several times a day to help realign your posture.

3.Whenever you have to sit for long periods of time, get up and walk around every half hour, gently squeezing your shoulder blades together for a few seconds. Do 10-12 times to help correct your posture and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting.

Last, explore professional help such as chiropractic care. This can be invaluable in your efforts to overcome forward head posture and other postural imbalances.

 

Push-Ups: Which Version is Best for You?

 Push-Ups: Which Version is Best for You?

Think “push-up” and the image of a buff bodybuilder sweating his way through a hundred reps comes to mind. We may think that this is the only option for this exercise, and then avoid doing them because it’s too difficult, or intimidating. However, there are several versions of this common exercise available, to benefit everyone from a deconditioned beginner, to a seasoned exerciser. Each version will work your pectorals (chest muscles) and triceps (back of the upper arm), your shoulders (deltoids), and will also engage your core muscles.

  

The Seated Push-up: This exercise works well for someone who has difficulty standing. Sit in a chair or locked wheelchair, about an arm's length away from the edge of a sturdy table or a kitchen counter. Place your feet on the floor, wider than the chair, for stability. Pull your belly button (navel) to your spine by tightening your abs; then place your hands on the edge of the table. Keeping your back flat and abs tight, bend your elbows and lean in towards the table, breathing in. As you breathe out, slowly straighten your arms, and push yourself away from the table, keeping your hands firmly on the edge of the table, and keeping the abs braced. Repeat slowly, until you reach fatigue (can’t do any more with good technique).

 

The Standing Push-up: If you have difficulty getting down or up from the floor, this is a good choice. Stand in front of a wall with your feet slightly wider than your hips, and several inches away from the wall. You’ll need to experiment with how it feels, to determine your distance from the wall. First, place your hands directly out from your shoulder onto the wall. Next, draw the navel towards the spine, and keeping your abs braced, and your back flat, inhale and slowly bend your elbows, moving towards the wall. Do not allow your hips to sag forward. As you exhale, slowly straighten your arms, engaging the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. Do not allow your hips to lead the way; keep your body in a straight line. Repeat until you can’t do any more with good technique.

 

The Side-Lying Push-up: The level of difficulty here is more than the standing push-up, but not as strenuous as a push-up from the knees or toes. To do this one, sit on a mat on your right hip, with your legs out to the left, and comfortably bent, and your hands on the floor in front of you. Tighten your abs and keep your back flat. Spread your fingers out a bit for stability, and inhale as you bend your elbows, and lower your upper body towards the ground. Exhale as you slowly push back up, straightening your arms. Do one set to fatigue on this side. Rest, and repeat this movement on your other side, until fatigue.

 

Push-up From Knees: This is the next degree of difficulty. Get face down on a mat, with your body weight resting on your hands and knees. Your arms should be placed a few inches outside of your shoulders, with the hands below shoulder level. Lower your hips until a straight line forms between your shoulders and your knees - your hips should not be elevated in the air. Brace your core muscles, and inhale as you slowly lower your body to the floor, and exhale as you straighten your arms and push up.

 

Push-ups From the Toes: This is the most challenging of the push-ups described here. The technique is the same as for the version from the knees, but the body weight rests on the hands and the toes. Make sure that the core muscles are braced, and do not allow the lower back to sag

As with any exercise, make sure that you pick the appropriate level to start with, and that you perform it with good technique, to avoid injury. If you are new to exercise, please check with your doctor to ensure that it is all right to engage in physical activity, and seek out proper instruction for all activities.

 

Punctuate Your Posture!

Punctuate Your Posture!

 

Do you look like a comma when you look in the mirror? Do your neck, shoulders and head hurt? If this is you, you need to change your posture from a comma to an exclamation mark!

Here are four tips to get you standing and sitting better.

  

1.      Practise sliding your shoulder blades downwards. Think "sliding them into your back pants pockets". This will allow you to extend through your thoracic spine - the part of your spine that runs between the base of your neck and the middle of your back. This will help you to open up through your chest and take your shoulders away from a very rounded position. Do several of these every day. (Get up from your chair and do them!)

 

2.      Stretch your upper trapezius and levator scapulae (upper back and neck muscles), and your pectoral (chest) muscles. A bent-over, flexed-spine posture encourages these muscles to tighten and restricts proper movement.

 

3.      Do chin tucks daily to strengthen the muscles that keep your head aligned over your shoulders (upper thoracic extensors). When you have done these for a couple of days, combine the tucks with Tip #1, sliding your shoulder blades downwards. To add resistance, hold a light or medium strength tubing in your hands, with thumbs pointing up to the ceiling. As you pull your hands away from each other, do the chin tuck and shoulder blade slide.

 

4.      Strengthen your abdominal muscles. Start with the basics like the abdominal vacuum and plank. You can then add side to side movement to the plank, or raise one arm off the ground for a few seconds to intensify the work in your abs. Avoid crunches or curl-ups - they pose risk to the lumbar spine, and encourage poor and painful neck movement.

 

Deb Bailey Personal Trainer - in Home (Now On-line!)
Phone: 519-572-0986
debbailey@rogers.com
Kitchener, Ontario

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