One of the most common culprits for causing neck pain, upper back pain and headaches is Forward Head Posture or Forward Head Position (FHP).
Forward Head Posture can also increase insomnia and breathing problems. It’s a completely abnormal position for our heads to be in. The head should always be positioned directly over the body so that your neck is aligned with your back. Your back and neck is designed to support the head, but only when it is directly above it!
When you lean your head forward, you are demanding more work of your neck and back muscles. And as they are not used to this movement, they will ache. You are also actually producing the equivalent of adding more weight to your back and neck , in the same way that holding a heavy object with outstretched arms will seem a lot heavier than holding it close to your chest.
There are no prizes for guessing what the biggest culprit is, in making our heads universally want to move forward! Yup. Our computer screens.
So how do we get rid of this pain?
Well, the first thing is to stop our bad habits, and refrain from leaning forward. People with headrests on their office chairs are a lot less likely to be guilty of holding their heads forward. When you have a headrest, you can lean your head back against it, and even recline back a bit. This is mostly how I sit in my marvellous Kinnarps 6000+ chair.
One thing you could try is to move your monitor closer to you. How much space do you actually need between you and the monitor anyway?
I know some people have their keyboards in between, but really, it’s better to have the keyboard on a shelf lower than the desk, so your arms are in the correct position. If you have that luxury, then bring your monitor closer to the front of your desk. There! –You’ve just increased your monitor size in two seconds – for free!
Also, most browsers let you increase the size of the text, by pressing Control and + together. Make sure you have just the text set to increase; not the pics too, or they’ll all be poor quality. You can change this in View > Zoom > Text Only in Firefox.
People laugh when they see the size of my screen text, and ask me if I’m half blind, but although I have 20/20 vision, I think why should I have to squint or move my head forward to read people’s miniscule online text? I work online all day – I might as well make the experience as comfortable as possible. Also, it ensures I get fewer headaches.
But what if you’ve got into the habit of having your neck forward the whole time, or for a lot of the time?
One great way to stop it, is to set an hourly timer. I have a stopwatch that bleeps on the hour every hour. And when I hear it, I check my posture, and re-adjust it if I’m not sitting straight, and I check my To Dos to make sure I haven’t got distracted. Trust me the hourly chime does wonders!
If you use this technique you’ll get out of the habit of poking your head forward pretty quickly.
I actually set up a video camera to record me for an hour on the PC a few months back. I was aware that I wasn’t aware (!) of my posture while I’m in the moment and concentrating on my work. I’m happy to report, I only lurched forward once, and that was when I saw a shocking headline, and couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I took a closer look! (like him in the pic above!) But the rest of the time, my posture was pretty good.
So to prevent FHP and minimize the chance of getting back pain, neck pain and headaches:
- Move your monitor closer to you
- Increase text size
- Use an hourly chime to check your posture regularly
- If possible, get a ergonomics chair with a head rest (and arm rests)
“No good deed goes unpunished”
So don’t stick your neck out – it’ll hurt!