Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

Head First

The Big Head on MainWe are told to dive in, head-first into life. Unfortunately, most of us took this aphorism literally. Most Americans, as they age, hold their heads forward of their bodies.

Forward head posture (FHP), or Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS), is a set up for chronic headaches, TMJ and dental issues, arm numbness, and neck pain, which occurs in 15% of the population.[1]

What no one will tell you is that your head never goes forward without your upper back or chest going back. As your body slumps, your upper back curves back. Your head naturally goes forward, or you would be walking around looking at the sky. We enhance our slouching and forward head posture with all the sitting and reading we do. It’s not just sitting at the computer that does it; reading in bed can be a major cause.

Some professionals recommend exercises to “strengthen” the opposite muscles to pull the head up. In the short term, you may see improvements because you are shifting the load. In the long term, you’ll only get tighter… and your head is still forward.

If a wall keeps cracking after you patch it, you will look at leveling the foundation, right? If your head is forward, then your upper back is slouched back, and you’ve lost your pelvic curve (low back curve). Rather than worrying about strengthening any muscles, you may want to look at how you can release the tension in your soft tissue. Your skeleton is trapped in a soft tissue suit that is too small for it. Give it more room!

Solutions

First, become aware of how you hold your body, due to stress or just habit. I’ve worked with Olympic runners who weren’t breathing near their capacity, so there’s a good chance you aren’t, either. The first response to stress we develop is to hold our breath. Learning that you are not breathing in a relaxed manner, and then relaxing over time will transform your life and your body. I know this sounds ridiculous, but the studies on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) proves it.

Next, make sure your furniture fits you, not that you fit your furniture. If you are reading a lot or on the computer for hours a day, make sure you are situated in the most relaxed posture possible. Throughout the day, get up and move. Change your position, stretch, do small neck and back movements to get the muscles that were static to move. Remember, we still have the body of cavemen, we just don’t have the lifestyle. Our bodies aren’t meant to be still, even in the best position.

Owen Marcus, MA, Certified Advanced Rolfer, www.align.org – call if you have questions: 265.8440. 

[1] http://www.painmed.org/patientcenter/facts_on_pain.aspx

 

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