More of us are spending longer hours working in front of a computer. This can contribute to the head being carried too much in front of the body, or head forward posture.

Ideally, the head is supposed to be carried directly over the shoulders. A plumb line dropped from the center of the ear opening should be over the center of the shoulders when seen from the side. Too often the head is carried forward of this line. This can result in shoulder and neck tension and pain as well as headaches. Think of the average skull weighing 14 pounds, and you can imagine the physical stress when you are not properly aligned!

To avoid developing head forward posture, several steps can be taken. If you are sitting in front of a screen, look away every 20 to 30 minutes. Staring at a screen for longer periods can lead to eye strain, which causes people to crane their necks forward unnecessarily. Think of lifting your sternum (breastbone) upward. This causes the shoulders to fall open and naturally re-aligns the head and neck. Be sure that when you sit upright, the center of your computer monitor is at the center of your gaze without having to tilt your chin up or down. Your keyboard should be positioned so that your upper arms hang easily from your shoulders and your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. If you have to use a phone, try to use a hands-free headset.

Longer term options include gentle stretching, yoga or tai chi to develop strength and flexibility. Chiropractic care is also helpful. When a patient comes to me and has neck pain or headaches as a result of head forward posture, I focus on re-balancing the neck muscles using Applied Kinesiology techniques, which include soft tissue and reflex work as well as adjusting. I also talk about how to change workstation ergonomics, as well as recommend stretches and strengthening exercises for ongoing self-care.

If not taken care of, head forward posture usually worsens with time, and can lead to exaggerated rounding of the spine and many other painful conditions. Regular chiropractic care can help either correct or avoid the condition.

Dr. Alexander has practiced at Ridgely Retreat since 2007. She offers a complimentary 15-minute consultation. She can be reached at 443-433-0463.

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Dr. Kathryn Alexander, D. C.