Have you ever experienced persistent headaches, neck pain, or stiffness? Do you feel that your posture could be the culprit? If so, you might be suffering from weak deep neck flexors and forward head posture.

There are several factors that can lead to weak deep neck flexors and forward head posture. These include a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture habits, and lack of exercise. In this extended post, we will delve into each of these factors and their impact on your body.

Sedentary Lifestyle:

In today’s digital age, a lot of our day is spent in front of a computer screen, either at work or home. This has led to a sedentary lifestyle, which has severe repercussions on our health. When you sit for an extended period, your neck muscles are in a fixed position. This prolonged static posture causes the muscles to tighten and become stiff. Check out this blog we wrote to help you stick to your goals

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Furthermore, most of us use laptops or desktops that are placed at a lower height, leading to us hunching forward. This action puts pressure on our neck muscles, causing the neck to bend forward, which can lead to forward head posture. Over time, this posture can lead to headaches, neck pain, and stiffness.

Poor Posture Habits:

When we think of poor posture habits, most of us imagine hunching over a laptop or slouching on a couch while binge-watching a Netflix series. However, many other factors can contribute to poor posture, such as the way we sleep, the way we walk, or the way we carry our bags.

For instance, carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder can cause you to lean towards the side that bears the load, leading to a curvature of the spine. Similarly, if you sleep with too many pillows, it can cause your neck to be in a flexed position, leading to neck pain.

The Victorian Government has a great resource on this for further reading.

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/posture

Lack of exercise:

We often neglect the importance of exercise for maintaining a healthy body. When it comes to the neck muscles, exercise is essential. Our neck muscles are responsible for holding up our head, which weighs around 10-12 pounds. So, if our neck muscles are weak, they will not be able to support our head’s weight, leading to neck pain.

Moreover, if we do not move our neck muscles regularly, they will become tight and inflexible. This can lead to muscle imbalances, leading to forward head posture.

Diagnosis:

If you have been experiencing persistent headaches, neck pain, or stiffness, it is essential to visit a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will assess your posture and diagnose the root cause of your pain. They will conduct specific tests to determine if you have weak deep neck flexors and forward head posture. These tests include:

Cervical Range of Motion Test:
In this test, the physiotherapist will ask you to move your head in different directions to determine the range of motion of your neck. If you have limited mobility, it could be due to weak deep neck flexors or tight neck muscles.

Muscle Strength Test:
In this test, the physiotherapist will check the strength of your neck muscles. If you have weak deep neck flexors, it will be challenging to hold your head in a neutral position.

Head Posture Test:
The physiotherapist will observe your head’s position while you stand upright. If your head is positioned forward, it is an indication of forward head posture.


Treatment:

Once the physiotherapist has diagnosed weak deep neck flexors and forward head posture, they will provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan. This plan will include exercises to strengthen your neck muscles and stretches to release tight neck muscles. Here are some specific exercises that can help you alleviate your symptoms:

Chin tucks: This exercise targets the deep neck flexors and helps to improve neck alignment. Begin by sitting tall with your shoulders relaxed and your chin parallel to the floor. Then, gently draw your chin in towards your throat, keeping your gaze straight ahead. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Neck nods: This exercise is similar to the chin tuck, but adds in a nodding motion to engage the deeper neck flexors. Start in the same position as the chin tuck, with your chin parallel to the floor. Then, nod your head down towards your chest, keeping your chin tucked in. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Scapular retractions: This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades, which can improve posture and reduce tension in the neck and shoulders. Begin by sitting tall with your shoulders relaxed. Then, draw your shoulder blades down and towards each other, as if trying to pinch a pencil between them. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Shoulder rolls: This exercise helps to release tension in the shoulders and upper back, which can contribute to forward head posture. Begin by sitting tall with your shoulders relaxed. Then, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, then roll them back and down. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Chest opener: This exercise helps to stretch the chest muscles, which can become tight and contribute to forward head posture. Begin by standing or sitting tall with your shoulders relaxed. Then, interlace your fingers behind your back and gently squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 5-10 reps.

Swan dive: This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in the upper back, which can improve posture and reduce tension in the neck and shoulders. Begin by lying face-down on a mat with your arms by your sides. Then, engage your upper back muscles to lift your chest off the ground, keeping your gaze down towards the mat. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat for 5-10 reps.

These are just a few examples of Pilates exercises that can help to strengthen the deep neck flexors and improve posture. The other benefit of pilates is that it can help with many different conditions, as we know they often fit together. Read this on how it can help sciatica:

Pilates as a treatment tool for sciatica

However, it’s important to work with a qualified Pilates instructor or physiotherapist to develop a personalized exercise program that meets your specific needs and goals.