When a person maintains good posture, their head aligns vertically with the spine. Forward head posture (FHP) occurs when a person is leaning their head forward, out of neutral alignment with their spine.
When the alignment of the head is off, it can cause a variety of problems, including stiffness in the neck, pain, and balance issues.
In this article, we look at what FHP is, how it occurs, and what treatment options are available.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) define FHP as holding the head out, in front of its natural position over the cervical spine. A person with FHP also typically tilts their head back in order to look forward.
This posture puts a strain on the muscles and bones of the neck. It can also lead to muscle imbalances, as some muscles support more of the load than others.
According to a 2014 study, the forward position of the head puts increasing amounts of weight pressure on the spine.
The study found that the head weighs about 10–14 pounds (lb) in a neutral spine position but increases in weight as it leans forward:
|Position of the head||Weight of the head|
|15 degrees||27 lb|
|30 degrees||40 lb|
|45 degrees||49 lb|
|60 degrees||60 lb|
rding to a U.S. National Library of Medicine clinical trial design, the muscles that FHP weakens and lengthens include:
- deep neck flexors, including the longus capitis and longus colli
- scapular stabilizers and retractors, such as the rhomboids, middle and lower trapezius, teres minor, and infraspinatus
The muscles that become shortened and overactive include:
- deep upper cervical extensors, such as the longissimus capitis, splenius capitis, cervical multifidus, and upper trapezius
- shoulder protractors and elevators, such as the pectoralis minor, pectoralis major, and levator scapula
With exercise and stretching, a person can reverse FHP and hold their head in a neutral position, in alignment with the spine.
People may associate FHP with using electronic devices for a long time, such as cell phones or computers.
However, any activity that causes a person to lean their head forward for a prolonged period of time can lead to chronic FHP.