If your neck slants forward, and your head pokes in front of your shoulders instead of resting directly above them, you likely have what is called forward head posture. This position can strain your neck muscles and load dozens of extra pounds of pressure on your cervical spine, increasing the risk of spinal degeneration.
You can help correct forward head posture over time by practicing these simple habits every day.
1. Start each morning with chin tucks and chest stretches
A chin tuck exercise is quick and easy to do and it helps strengthen your upper thoracic extensors, the muscles that align your head over your shoulders.
- Stand with your upper back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Face forward, tuck your chin down, and pull your head back until it meets the wall.
- Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before resting, and repeat 10 times.
Tight chest muscles can contribute to your head jutting forward. By stretching out your pectoralis major and minor, your shoulders and head may have an easier time staying pulled back and in good posture.
- Face a corner of a room or stand in a doorway. Place your forearms against each wall (or each door jamb) with your elbows slightly below shoulder level.
- Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your chest under your collarbone.
- Hold for up to a minute.
Work these stretches into your morning routine. Two minutes at the beginning of each day is a simple investment that can pay big dividends for your posture. Stop immediately if any of these movements cause pain.
See Neck Stretches
2. Set up your workspace ergonomically
It’s easy to hunch your head forward when you spend most of the day sitting in a chair and staring at a screen. Arrange your workstation so that it encourages you to keep your head aligned over your shoulders.
- Raise your computer monitor so your eyes hit the top third of the screen when you look straight ahead.
- Position your mouse and keyboard so when you use them your forearms are parallel to the floor and your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees.
- Buy an office chair with a headrest so you can keep the back of your head flush against the chair while working.
If you still find yourself slouching your neck forward, set a reminder on your phone that alerts you several times a day to check your posture.
3. Sleep on a cervical pillow
A cervical pillow, sometimes called an orthopedic pillow, is distinctively shaped with the center of the pillow curved inward to better support the natural curves of the head and cervical spine. The goal of the design is to keep your neck neutral rather than flexed forward. You can achieve a similar effect by sleeping on your back with a rolled towel under your neck instead of a pillow.
There’s no clear medical evidence that supports one type of pillow over another, so let personal comfort guide your decision for which pillow to use.
You won’t correct forward head posture overnight. Commit to these tips and see if you notice an improvement over the weeks and months ahead. If your forward head posture is severe or causes pain, consult a physical therapist who can provide more guidance and options to help improve posture.