How To Fix Forward Head Posture
As fitness enthusiasts who work all day on a laptop, we have to pay special attention to our posture. Additionally, both of us grew up with parents who were strict about proper posture.
Maybe that’s why we’re a bit self-conscious and determined to learn how to fix forward head posture. For us, the motivation is more than aesthetic, although we love that studies have shown good posture to promote confidence.
There are many reasons to fix forward neck or forward shoulder posture. There are also science-backed ways to improve posture. Hint: it starts with an “ex-” and ends with an “-ercise.”
This in-depth article you’ll learn how to correct forward head posture, aka “nerd neck.”
how to fix forward head posture
For something as simple and universal as posture, many don’t have a good one.
The fast-paced, digital world we now live is in not helping our posture. Between driving, texting, reading, and sitting in front of a computer or TV, we’re all highly susceptible to poor posture.
Both Alex and I grew up with mothers who gently harassed us about our poor posture. Still, to this day, our posture isn’t where we want it to be.
We exercise almost daily, do yoga regularly, and meditate most nights. Unfortunately, we’re not reaping the most benefit from these activities without great posture.
As engineers, we dug into the data on how to fix forward head posture.
Since publishing this article, we conducted a 2-week experiment to measure posture improvement with the UPRIGHT GO 2 posture trainer. We were skeptics going into the experiment, and now we wear them everyday while we work at our desks.
The results were significant:
56% improvement in forward head
37% improvement in slumped shoulders
43% increase in back strength
44% increase in chest flexibility
Right click and open the below link in a new tab to read the full story.
How Does Forward Head Happen?
There are a couple scenarios that lead to forward head.
The first is a combination of slouched shoulders and a rounded upper back. This Quasimodo position (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, anyone?) causes a lengthening and weakening of back and rear shoulder muscles. Simultaneously, the chest and front shoulder muscles shorten and tighten.
In this hunched position, the chin juts out so that we can look forward to the windshield or computer screen in front of us.
The second scenario is constantly having a tight bend in your neck from texting (hence the nickname “text neck”), staring down at a kindle, or sleeping with your head propped up on a tall pillow.
We talk about how to fix both forward head and forward shoulders scenarios in this post.
What Causes Forward Head Posture?
The reasons for poor posture are many: from sitting too much to muscular tightness and inflexibility. These are the most likely causes of forward head and forward shoulders:
- Too much screen time on your phone, tablet, or computer screen
- Slouching in the car or workplace
- Sleeping with your head too elevated
These, although less common, will contribute to forward posture:
- Carrying a heavy pack or child
- Existing neck or back injuries
- Anything that keeps your back and neck under load for a long time (typing on a computer, cutting hair, lifting heavy gear at work, etc.)
You might be surprised that the typical human head weighs 8 to 12 pounds. That’s like a kettlebell sitting on top of your neck. If your neck slips forward from the vertical plane, it bends under the load on your neck, eventually pulling your upper back forward with it.
What’s more, the weight of your head increases as forward posture gets worse.
In The Physiology of the Joints, Dr. Adalbert I. Kapandji explains that an additional 10 pounds of weight are added for every inch that an 8-pound head protrudes from neutral position.
Next, learn how to test for forward neck or shoulder posture
How To Test For Forward Head Posture?
There are two simple ways to test for forward head and forward shoulder posture.
The Forward Head Posture Test
Stand normally with your shoulder blades, butt, and heels touching the wall. If the back of your head isn’t also touching the wall, you have forward neck.
If you can tuck your chin and engage your neck muscles to move your head back to touch the wall, it’s not too bad. If you can’t, you have work to do.
The Forward Shoulders Posture Test
Stand normally with your arms relaxed at your side. If your thumbs aren’t pointing straight in front, you have forward shoulders.
If they are facing inward, say at a 45-degree angle crossed in front of you, you have forward shoulder but it’s not too bad. If your thumbs are pointing at each other, you have your work cut out for you.
What Are The Side Effects Of Forward Head?
There are many risks that come with bad posture. Forward neck can lead to back and neck pain, pinched nerves, muscle spasms, restricted breathing, reduced exercise performance, and even migraines.
If you suspect that your posture is causing severe side effects or chronic pain, we highly recommend visiting with a professional.
For us, the most concerning side effects of bad posture is the mental side effects and degenerative side effects.
We’re interested in improving your posture to gain the look and feel of a more confident and bold person. More about that in Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, sharing how your body language may shape who you are.
Additionally, utilize exercise to reverse the degenerative effects of bad posture and avoid injury.
Poor posture increases the risk of exercise-induced injury. What’s more, poor posture makes your workouts less efficient, resulting in strength and flexibility imbalances.
Exercising with poor posture is like putting new tires on a car with a rusted out frame. So, let’s talk about how posture and exercise performance.
Good Posture = Good Workouts
“Stand up straight!” Growing up, my grandmother and mother hounded my sister and I (Alex). We were constantly reminded to stick our chests out. My sister spent years getting accustomed to walking with an arm bent behind her back, grabbing the opposite elbow to force her chest up.
For me, I tried the “get out of jail free” card, saying that my years of competitive swimming rounded my shoulders and that I couldn’t do anything about it. Ironically, my swimming career was cut short due to shoulder tendonitis – something perhaps better posture could have avoided.
Bad posture is more than just slouching your shoulders. Poor posture is seen with forward posture, hunchback, a protruding abdomen, a curved pelvic stance, or standing with your weight in one hip.
The way to combat poor posture is by strengthening your muscles, ligaments, and joints.
Take swimming as an example, a sport that I did competitively for over a decade. All my years of butterfly and breaststroke built up my front deltoid and pectoral muscles.
With the focus of these forward, internal muscles, my upper back and shoulders, particularly the thoracic muscles, lacked strength and lengthened. With my tight shoulders, my whole body rounded forward.
Everyone, not just athletes, benefits from good posture. Posture isn’t simply a static, standing-up-straight or sitting-up-straight pose. It’s dynamic, and you need good form during your workouts and sports.
Correcting for posture issues should be a first step and daily exercise for anyone trying to get healthy.
Sports performance and posture are therefore interlinked. While studies cannot definitively say if injuries are caused by posture (there are too many factors to run a controlled study like this), research does link poor posture to reduced lung capacity, decreased range of motion, muscular imbalances, ligament tightness, and inefficient muscle gains and movements.
Luckily, having good posture is like creating a good habit. With time, you can realign your body.
How Long To Fix Forward Head Posture?
What we know is that it’s not a matter of days. It will take months at the very least. Your current forward head posture is likely the product of years of slouching. Trust the process and expect it to take that long.
The good news is that you can make improvements in four to six months. This study showed that subjects who improved their workplace ergonomics and completed posture exercises began to feel better in this time period.
Exercises can significantly reduces the amount of time needed to correct your posture. So, let’s focus on the best exercises to fix forward posture.
UPDATE: Since posting this article we have run a highly conclusive experiment with a wearable posture corrector. By using this device, we saw significant and permanent posture improvement in two weeks. Keep reading for more on those results.
How to Fix Forward Head Posture - Exercises and Stretches
You’re here to learn how to fix forward head, and according to our research and experience, these are the best exercises. They will do the following:
- Fix forward head and slouched shoulders
- Increase range of motion (especially in your shoulders)
- Reduce tightness (especially in your chest)
The goal of these exercises, stretches, and yoga positions are to bring your back, shoulders, and neck into a neutral position. Don’t do anything that is painful. However, it’s normal for the exercises to feel uncomfortable at first.
While completing these exercises and stretches, it’s critical to keep your body in line, especially your head and shoulders. Flex your glutes and core while pulling your shoulder blades together to maintain proper posture.
Best Stretches to Fix Forward Head Posture
Stretch 1 – Chin Tuck:
Tuck your chin and engage the your neck to move your head back toward neutral position.
Stretch 2 – Seated Neck Stretch:
Sit on the floor, extend your left arm, and place your left hand on the floor next to you. Tilt your head to the right and use your right hand to apply pressure and deepen the stretch. Then, switch sides.
Best Stretches to Fix Slumped Shoulder Posture
Stretch 1 – X Rotation On The Floor:
Lay on your stomach with your arms and legs in the shape of an X. Engage your back and entire posterior chain to lift your right hand up over your head. Feel the stretch in your left pectoral muscles and tilt your head up to look at your thumb.
Stretch 2 – Arms Behind Back:
According to Harvard Health, this stretch is especially useful as we age. Clasp your hands behind your back and pinch your shoulder blades together. Then lift your hands outward. It’s a bonus hamstring stretch if you bend over into a forward fold.
Stretch 3 – Corner Stretch:
Find a corner in your house, place your hands on the perpendicular walls at chest height, and lean into it.
If you’re like me and exercise regularly, you’ll carry a lot of tension in your chest muscles. According to an article on ACEFitness.com, these are the best exercises to loosen up chest muscles.
How To Fix Forward Head Posture – 3 Easy Exercises
Luckily, having good posture is like creating a good habit. With time, you can realign your body. We share three effective and dynamic exercises with resistance bands in the video below.
We recommend doing these three exercises, shown in the below video, every night before bed. Keep the resistance band on your nightstand if that helps create the habit.
Exercise 1 – Shoulder Overhead Extension:
This can be done with a resistance band or towel. Keep light tension and move within a comfortable range of motion. Remember to flex your glutes and core to stay in alignment. Perform 10 reps.
Exercise 2 – Lat Pull-Downs:
With a light resistance band or towel, focus on pinching your shoulder blades together (activating your rhomboids and traps). You’ll feel this in your lats and a stretch in your chest. Perform 20 reps.
Exercise 3 – Band Pull-Aparts:
With a light resistance band, start with your thumbs straight in the center of your body but rotate them outwards to point behind you as you pull. Make sure your shoulders remain pulled back and not slouching forward.
While this can all be done in under 3-minutes a day, remember to make each rep quality and keep it slow and consistent.
Bonus Exercise – Bent Over Rows:
This is another great back strengthening exercise that we borrowed from our free, 8-week Resistance Band Workout Routine.
Yoga For Forward Head Posture
The following yoga positions are best for alleviating tension that’s holding your back from correcting your forward head posture.
These poses can be done with your partner or individually. Since we borrowed these pictures from our article, ‘Couple’s Yoga Poses,‘ all of the yoga positions for forward head posture are demonstrated with two people.
Yoga Pose 1 – Partner Camel Pose:
This yoga pose is our favorite to correct forward head posture. If you’re doing this post without a partner, put your hands on your heels. To safely complete this yoga pose, follow these steps:
- Put your knees together
- Grab your partner’s forearms
- Lean back into camel pose
- Keep your chest open and flex your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine
To relieve tension in the neck, it’s best to relax your head and neck. Be careful not to turn your head to the side and remember to breathe.
Yoga Pose 2 – Seated Yoga Twist:
To properly complete this yoga pose, lengthen your spine, sit up straight, breathe, twist and look over your shoulder to stretch your neck.
Yoga Pose 3 – Child’s Pose and Fish:
While in child’s pose, you can experiment with your knees together or spread open, deepening the stretch. If you’re doing fish pose without a partner, put your forearms on the ground and press your chest up.
Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Forward Head
There are a number of key factors that you must implement to have a healthy posture. First, let’s talk about the thing we should be spending eight hours a day doing.
1. How To Fix Forward Head Posture While Sleeping
You shouldn’t have back or neck pain when you wake up in the morning. If you do, you need to optimize your mattress, sleeping position, and pillow.
Everyone is different, but the general consensus is that sleeping on your back on a medium-firm mattress is ideal. Additionally, make sure your head isn’t propped up on a tall pillow.
We talk more about optimizing sleep posture and this mattress in our article titled, ‘Is Your Mattress Causing Back Pain?‘
Years ago I tried to fix my forward head posture by sleeping without a pillow. It didn’t work because my 8-12 pound head rolled around all night and I woke up with a sore neck. Find a pillow that supports the natural bend in your neck, and prevents your head from rolling around.
A rather thin memory foam pillow will work well. I also like the support from a MyPillow, and I modified mine so that I had optimal neck support and limited side to side head movement.
2. Improve Workplace Ergonomics
Work is another necessary activity that takes up a large portion of our day. Whether you’re at a sitting desk or a standing desk, your arms should be at a 90-degree angle and the top of your screen should be eye level.
If you are sitting, lumbar support will prevent slouching. We highly, I repeat, HIGHLY recommend using a standing desk. You’ll increase productivity and reduce aches and pains in your back.
If you are serious about learning how to fix forward head posture, read our article titled ‘Should I Get A Standing Desk?‘
3. Level Up Your Driving Posture
I used to drive 20-30 hours a week for my corporate job. I drove a brand new 2017 Ford Fusion and the lumbar support and seat height was not posture friendly.
You may need to add lumbar support to your seat to improve driving posture. I created this video to help you adjust and improve driving posture.
4. Experiment With A Posture Corrector
This conclusion was drawn from a study on the “young population.” The average age of subjects was 33.7 years old.
“The use of computing devices, especially mobile telephones, and the increase in the flexion of the cervical spine indicate that cervical vertebral problems will increase even in younger people in the future. Also, ergonomic devices must also be developed.”
We experimented with the UPRIGHT GO 2 posture correctors and our transformation was dramatic. We conducted a 2-week experiment and summarized our significant transformation in a data-driven UPRIGHT GO 2 posture trainer review.
A 56% improvement in forward head posture was measured, and our before and after photos were shocking as well.
5. Move More
A sedentary lifestyle is a dangerous one. Our bodies were made to move. In addition to exercising daily, find ways to get your lungs pumping and your blood flowing.
In this TedEd talk, ‘The Benefits of Good Posture,’ the researchers share that changing postures and constantly moving is healthier than standing still in perfect posture.
If you need a device to nudge you into moving more frequently, the Apple Watch Series 3 as served this purpose for us.
Correcting any problems with posture is critical to a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re an athlete or simply someone exercising to improve your health, good posture sets the proper foundation and form while preventing future injury.
I have questions. What do I do?
Ask away in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible and add your recommendations to this article accordingly.
Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your comment!
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After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
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(Sorry for my English, I’m French)
Thanks you for this article, i very appreciate all your advices. But I have a question about the exercises : will my neck regain its original position over time or is it just to improve the posture and pain?
Hey Neal! Great question. Doing these exercises daily will improve posture and reduce neck pain fairly quickly. For me, my neck pain was gone after two weeks. However, completely correcting bad posture so that your neck regains its original position takes significantly more time.
If you work at a desk as I do, it’s unrealistic to expect 10-15 minutes of exercise to reverse the negative effects of 8 hours of poor sitting posture. This is why it’s so important to improve your posture at work. You can optimize using the tips we shared in this article.
In my experience, even after improving my work posture, I still struggled to maintain perfect posture all day. It was too easy to get lost in work and start slouching again. Like you, I was determined to have better posture. So, as a form of accountability, Alex and I tested the UPRIGHT GO 2, a wearable posture trainer that vibrates when you start slouching as a reminder to sit up straight.
If your goal is to correct your posture as quickly as possible, I highly recommend the device. While it’s a little bit annoying, we measured significant improvements in our posture during our 2-week experiment. If you want to know more about the results and see our before and after photos, we thoroughly documented the posture experiment in this article:
Sorry, I can’t give you a more exact answer. In short, YES, the exercises will help you regain your neck’s original posture. BUT, since that takes months or even years, speed up the process by improving posture in all areas of your life (driving, sitting at work, sleeping, etc.) and holding yourself accountable with a wearable device (right now UPRIGHT GO 2 is the only one I have tried and can recommend).
Good luck, and please reach out if you have other questions!
Thank you very much for your answer. You give me hope for my neck!
I read a lot of articles on the subject and was afraid that I might not be able to straighten my neck, but just improve the pain with no real physical impact.
Your article is obviously the most complete and detailed on the subject. Thanks for that.
I will arm myself with patience and determination, and maybe buy the device you were telling me about to help me.