Question: My children keep telling me to stand straight and stop sticking my neck out. I wasn’t aware I was doing this, although I started having trouble with my neck and shoulders hurting about six months ago. Please explain this to me.

Answer: This is commonly known as Forward Head Posture (FHP). It often causes neck pain accompanied by misalignment in the area between your shoulders and head. (See diagram above figure 1.)

FHP often results from yet another posture issue called kyphosis. Kyphosis is a clinical term for a posture in which your shoulders and upper back round forward. There are several types of kyphosis. You may know kyphosis by its less flattering nickname, hunchback.

When the shoulders round forward, as they tend to do after many consecutive hours sitting at a desk, computer or sitting behind the wheel of the car, the head is also brought forward. This occurs because the upper back area (thoracic spine) supports the neck and head. When the thoracic spine moves or changes its position, under most circumstances, your head and neck will follow. Most of the head’s weight is in the front, and this contributes to the forward movement as well.

A Postural Deviation: Theoretically, your head is in a good alignment with your neck when your ears lines up with your shoulders. When we observe posture In our assessments, we look for this alignment and how the rest of your body might be misaligned or deviated.

FHP and Muscle Group Imbalance: Forward head posture often results in a strength imbalance between muscles that support and move your neck, shoulders and head. The muscles in front of your neck may become weak while the ones in back may become short, tight and strained.

Mindfully standing and sitting with good posture, along with exercises to strengthen your neck, may help get you back in alignment. Stretching may also help as neck muscles in general can get extremely tight and prevent you from doing your exercises fully. Stretching your neck may also relieve pain.

If your neck gives you a lot of pain, or if you are not sure how to get started with a neck exercise program, consult with your physician. He/she can include a postural assessment as part of your diagnosis because it will likely inform your treatment plan.

You should only work with a qualified practitioner when addressing your forward head posture. Examples are an MD such as a physiatrist, a physical therapist or professional fitness trainer with experience and advanced education in posture and neck issues.

As a fitness professional, I am well aware of many of the many benefits of exercise in correcting and preventing chronic conditions. However, physical activity offers much more than correction and prevention. Exercise can also be a powerful complement to traditional medical intervention and, in many instances, may allow a physician to significantly reduce a patient’s drug dosage or eliminate the need for medicine altogether.

Join me for a phone consultation or an in-person assessment to see how you can start a safe and effective fitness program. You’ll find more information at www.LoriMichielFitness.com. You may also email us or call us at 818-620-1442.

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