Head and Neck Posture: Understanding the Impact on Health and Fitness
The theme for this week …
Forward head posture impacts people of all ages, affects your ability to be active, and has roots beyond screen time. Read on …
Head posture, neck muscles, and balance
When you think of forward head posture, an older person may come to mind. Look around next time you’re in the general public … you’ll be surprised at what you see.
How does a forward head posture affect physical activity? Balance reactions and judging space to stay safe are impacted by your head being off-center.
Neck muscle development in children
The alignment of the head, neck, and shoulders actually has roots in early development, so even children may struggle with a forward head.
The head and neck muscles develop related to time an infant spends in various positions. This study looked at muscles activation by body position.
- Time in car seats or other seats was bad for neck muscles.
- Tummy time was the best for building strong neck muscles.
Babies need time on their tummies to develop their neck muscles! It can be for short periods of time, but just like adult exercise, the minutes add up.
Head Forward implications in young adults
This 2018 study from India on head and neck posture was interesting because it wasn’t focused on elderly. They found head forward effects in young adults had implications with:
- Processing speed
- Spatial awareness
- Dynamic balance impairment
What can you do?
To mitigate the balance concerns posed by a head forward posture, this study compared stretching and strengthening compared to functional stability exercises.
Findings? Functional stability exercises were better at improving balance.
Insight of the week from Cara
Is the abundance of poor neck posture due to screens?
These days I observe more and more young adults and teens with rounded posture and a head forward position.
Is it just screen time and looking down at phones?
Probably not. Maybe a person’s neck muscles weren’t so well developed to begin with.
In the research I shared, positioning as an infant contributes to neck muscle strength. The study indicated neck muscles benefit from more tummy time, and less car seat or bouncy seat time.
Some babies have extenuating circumstances
Yes, there are many reasons why a baby may get less tummy time. Your baby didn’t like being on their tummy. Or, you had to drive the older siblings to their activities so car seat time was increased.
Some individuals’ neck muscles never get the chance to develop a complete set of relationships. The three scenarios we see most often in the office are:
- preemies who spend time in the NICU
- infants requiring surgery (heart, stomach, head, limb)
- babies born with torticolis (twisted neck syndrome)
As you will see in this week’s video, Claire had early surgeries which impacted her neck muscle development.
Thirty years later her neck muscles changed with this Bridging® session!
Stories from our sessions … connecting disrupted neck muscles
We originally met Claire, who had two surgeries on her neck as an infant, to work on deeper breathing. She returned for a follow-up session. Her breathing is great, so we wondered if there was more to do to help her neck muscle coordination.
What is going on with Claire’s neck muscles?
What’s happened to Claire and when?
- Birth/Early life: Forceps delivery. Grapefruit size cyst on neck at birth. This impacted head position development and sensory development (visual, auditory and balance) since head was off-center.
- Injury/Accident: Auto accident, moped accident, treadmill fall
- Illness: none of significance
- Medical procedures/surgeries: Surgeries to remove cyst at 4 weeks and 18 months old.
Muscles in the head and neck have many ways to coordinate!
Goal: See if head alignment and neck muscle activation could improve given the early life disruptions (cyst and surgeries).
Literally, this session was all about creating an environment for success and support of pairs of muscles as they figured out how to work together. This is a very subtle, yet advanced, application of the Bridging® Technique.
By supporting specific positions of the head with a slight amount of tension, the muscles are able to activate and pair up so they can work together better for turning, tipping, extending, and flexing the head.
Once the neck muscles balanced out between the right and left sides of her head, the facial/jaw muscles seemed jealous. We held them and their long-standing muscle tension melted away. This allowed for a new jaw position, and Claire’s TMJ stress was gone.
Bonus clip: After the session
The bonus result for her was a change with her jaw. She never mentioned it as an issue, but was amazed at the change. Here is an unedited iPhone clip (20sec) from after the session as Claire was more fully experiencing the new movement. Priceless!
Have a look by going to our YouTube channel. YouTube doesn’t easily share links to short videos 🙁