What we really want to address, however, is something we don’t want to be moving forward with in the New Year or anytime … and that is your head. Confused? We’re talking about a common postural problem we want to help you fix – Forward Head.
Forward Head is a common faulty posture in which the head juts forward of the shoulders. Often it’s caused by long periods of working at a computer, too much cell phone usage, driving, or generally maintaining a kyphotic (overly rounded upper back) posture of the spine. Uh oh…sound familiar? Yes, we are all guilty of those habits!
Forward Head, over time, creates an improper curvature of the cervical spine. Think a straight line at a forward angle rather than the correct backwards-C curve of the cervical spine. This causes neck pain, removes the natural shock absorption necessary for healthy spine, and causes pressure between the joints risking injury to the cervical vertebra.
For every inch the head shifts forward from the plumb line, the neck bears an additional ten pounds of weight! This can cause muscle strain, joint stress, and place a compressive load upon the upper thoracic vertebra contributing to the development of an upper thoracic hump.
What can be done about this pervasive problem? Well, Pilates (Duh! I hope you saw that answer coming) IS a great way to strengthen the muscles surrounding the thoracic spine – especially the deep spinal extensors. Incorporating Pilates once a week, at a minimum, is an effective way to strengthen the often-underdeveloped core muscles responsible for helping your body stay in healthy alignment. To strengthen these muscles, you first have to connect to them by building the brain/muscle connection. How can you accomplish this? Through the mindful movement and precision training of Pilates you can innervate the underutilized core muscles, strengthen them, and bring your body into proper alignment. Spending one hour a week turning these important muscles on will not only help reduce or prevent Forward Head, but it will protect you from many other misalignment injuries and ensure you get the most out of ALL your movement activities.
BUT…Forward Head is a posture challenge that must be addressed at its source – your bad posture habits! Outside the studio and your weekly Pilates practice, you must make a constant effort to be present in your body and work on maintaining good posture. Becoming aware of your posture on a regular basis and identifying causal behaviors of this condition in your life is necessary for achieving real and important change.
One of the most effective ways to realign your body is to strive for plumb line posture throughout the day. Think of a line running from the crown of your head to your foot. From the side view, this line should pass through your ear, your shoulder, your rib cage, ASIS (hip bone), knee and anklebone. Try to keep these points stacked vertically one on top of the other – especially ears over shoulders to correct Forward Head.
Adjusting your workstation to a standing desk, getting a proper supportive pillow for sleep, and fixing your car seat can also make a big difference. With challenges caused by habit, it may require multiple strategies, a great deal of effort, and commitment to correct them. However, in the end your efforts will go a long way towards preventing further injury, illness, and discomfort.
A great 2016 resolution is to become more aware of your postural misalignment and strive to gradually correct any challenges with mindful movement. Keep moving forward this year – but not with your head!