One reason you may suffer from headaches: Forward Head Syndrome

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Are headaches and pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders and lower back all part of your new “normal”? You could be suffering from Forward Head Syndrome (FHS), a common condition suffered by many of us Westerners. Two of the main causes of FHS are poor posture coupled with extended hours sitting at a desk.

How heavy is your head?

Remember the cute kid from the movie Jerry McGuire? He knew the answer: the average human head weighs ~12 pounds. Allow the head to shift forward event slightly by a few degrees and now your head weighs twice as much. Visualize what this new head position does to the alignment of your spine and to the function of the muscles supporting your upper back and neck. The result is not pretty.

The Dangers of FHS

  1. Your centre of gravity is pulled forward

  2. Your shoulders are forced into a forward position

  3. The muscles of the upper back and back of the neck become overstreched and overworked which can contribute to headaches

  4. The muscles of your chest and front of the neck become tight and short

  5. The upper back rounds and shifts backward to compensate

  6. The lower back and pelvis tilt forwards causing your lower back to arch.

No wonder headaches and pain in the upper shouldes and neck are a chronic problem for many of us!

Is Your Head on Straight?

Here’s a simple way to check to see if your head and neck are in the correct alignment:

  1. Place the index, middle, and ring finger of one hand together (if you were ever a boy scout, this is the sign used when reciting the motto)

  2. Place the three fingers on the back of the neck

  3. Slowly move your head forward until you feel the muscles on the back of the neck flatten and harden

  4. Then take your head back until the base of the skull compresses to the back of the neck – NOT a comfortable position

  5. Bring your head to a neutral position where you feel a soft, relaxed curvature in the back of the neck. This is where your head should sit

  6. Then take the three fingers and place them under your chin; the distance between the front of your neck and the tip of your chin should be no more than these three fingers

Voila! You now have a neutral head position.

It will take work and practice to re-train your neck to realign itself so your head will sit in the right place. I promise that overtime your headaches will lessen or even disappear and your back, shoulders, and neck will thank you.

Ahhh, I bet you’re feeling better already.


 

Kim McNeil B.Sc. CYI

I’m a freckled, Montreal-born gal who discovered yoga after her competitive swimming career came to an end.   After retiring from the sport, I tried kickboxing, karate, and knitting but nothing seemed to fill the gap left by swimming.  As a last resort, I took my first yoga class in 1998.  The rest as they say is history. 
After over 14 years of practicing and teaching yoga, I specialize in working with those living with arthritis and stress.  My Iyengar-based approach to yoga therapy helps my clients manage their arthritis symptoms, chronic pain, stress, anxiety, and fatigue allowing them to get back to doing the activities they love.  The result is a huge improvement in my student’s overall quality of life.
Causes close to my heart are Power of Movement fundraiser for arthritis research for which I am an Ambassador and YogaThrive therapeutic yoga for cancer survivors program.  Most importantly, I love teaching.


 



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