If you look at the average adult these days you'll probably notice that their head is almost always tilted forward. And if you use a smartphone or spend any time at a desk, you probably have it too.
There are many names for this phenomenon: text neck, forward head posture, buffalo hump, etc. The medical term for it is anterior head carriage.
Anterior head carriage should concern you. Not only does it look bad, it actually hurts your health. People who have this forward head posture for too long can develop serious neck and back pain, decreased energy, brain fog, and accelerated aging. Got your attention now?
Hunchback Correction: Where To Begin
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to re-align your head, neck and upper back. But unless you're already working with a physical therapist it's hard to know exactly what to do.
I have written about my top recommended program by Rick Kaselj, physical therapist. And I do suggest you start there. If your neck and shoulders are as tight and weak as most people then doing this daily routine will make a fast difference. (I've been personally using the program for over a year now.)
But there's more you can do in addition to following Rick Kaselj's program. I spent a long time researching what the experts say and I'll summarize what I've learned below.
How To Achieve Your Ideal Posture
The following suggestions are based on the research I've done. What I looked for were common themes among experts. Here's what I found.
Choose An Ergonomic Screen Height and Sitting Posture
When you're sitting at your desk, your back is most likely hunched. Even if you think you sit fairly straight, try to self-assess in the mirror – you'll probably be surprised what you really look like.
There's an easy fix for this: adjust your computer screen height. You shouldn't be looking down at your computer screen. Nor is it good for you to be eye-level with your screen if it means you have to hunch over. Instead, sit as straight as possible and then move your screen so that you get your best view by looking straight ahead. If you don't have an adjustable desk you can just stack something flat and sturdy like books underneath until you're at an acceptable height.
To help further, try putting a cushion behind your back that forces you to sit toward the front of your chair seat. A good cushion can help you keep your spine straight while your back and core muscles get stronger. After a certain point you might not need a cushion but you definitely will at the beginning.
Hold Your Phone At Eye Level
Instead of always looking down at your phone, keep your eyes and head forward and hold your phone up to eye level. As you can probably guess, smartphones are one of the biggest reasons we have anterior head carriage so changing the way you use it is a must. Holding your phone level will take some getting used to but eventually it will become habit.
Gym Exercises To Correct Rounded Shoulders
Some of the best gym exercises to straighten your head and neck posture are actually core routines. Like I mentioned earlier, most of us have core weakness that makes it hard to sit or stand straight for the whole day.
You'll also want to add some resistance pulling to your workout. Try to add exercises like face pulls or seated rows to your usual routine. When you're just starting out, don't worry too much about how many reps or sets you do. Just doing these exercises with some light resistance will help begin the process of strengthening your weak and tight upper back muscles.
This is a simple stretch that I've seen multiple fitness experts recommend.
- Grab hold of a pull up bar
- Hang and let gravity gently pull your torso downward
Be careful, though. Most of us have extremely tight shoulders so hanging without any support beneath you might be too intense. Instead try to ease into it by either grabbing a bar that's low enough that your feet can still touch the ground, or place a platform underneath your feet. Eventually you'll loosen up and will be able to hang freely, but don't rush into it.
Practice Yoga Regularly
Yes, I know, yet another post raving about the benefits of yoga. But I can't write about fixing your posture without at least mentioning yoga. Just a standard yoga class will help reduce your anterior head carriage greatly.
It's not just because you stretch your shoulders and strengthen your posture, but you also improve mobility throughout your whole body. This is important. Since our bodies are interconnected, if you suffer from tight hips or hamstrings, it ends up affecting other muscle groups and hurting your posture. The stretching and mobility work you get in yoga is unparalleled and will help you eliminate your forward head posture quicker.
Consider Using A Better Posture Brace
If you're really struggling to practice good posture, a brace could help. There are plenty on the market and you can find one that you can wear discreetly under your normal clothes. A brace will help you develop the muscle memory to maintain good posture. Keeping your shoulder back will help make it a habit for your body and nervous system.
How To Choose A Posture Brace?
This might be a topic for a future post, but for now I suggest you either talk to your doctor/physical therapist, or at least look at the ratings and reviews on Amazon to get an idea of what to get.