There’s an incredibly high likelihood that your second brain is causing you more pain than you think. Improper smartphone use is a major cause of neck pain and headaches. Forward Head Posture (aka FHP, “Text Neck” or “Turtle Neck”) is a repetitive stress injury stemming from excessive texting, viewing, or everyday operation of a handheld device for extended periods of time. While the name itself doesn’t seem very hazardous to anyone’s health, the long-term repercussions can be quite detrimental to your overall health and well being.
What is Forward Head Posture?
FHP occurs when we flex our neck forward to check text messages, watch YouTube, swipe right (or left), trade stocks, check Instagram, or utilize any of the seemingly infinite uses of our handy second brains. A forward head tilt of just 15 degrees causes about 27 lbs. of pressure on our neck, which a) was not designed to regularly bear much weight at any angle and b) dramatically increases as the angle does.
What are the Symptoms of FHP?
Although the individual signs of Forward Head Posture themselves may not seem out of the ordinary, you may want to consider doing more research or talking to a physical therapist if you regularly experience any of the following symptoms:
Cervical Stiffness (aka Stiff Neck). While this one may seem like a no-brainer (second-brainer?), think about when your soreness presents itself—especially after long periods of Candy Crush or group texting.
Pain, in the Neck. Less of a judgement and more of an observation— Are you experiencing any sort of ongoing soreness in the neck (especially the lower part) and/or upper shoulders?
Pesky Headaches. Obviously, all headaches are annoying and we’d prefer not to get them. If yours seemingly flair up from nowhere when everything else seems fine and dandy (you’re neither dehydrated or hangry, it’s not allergy season, you feel well-rested and have been getting enough sleep, it’s entirely possible that something in your neck is causing sub-occipital muscle tightness that can lead to tension headaches.
Shoulder Tightness + Weakness. There is a little hunch in your posture and your upper back at times feels, shall we say, not as strong as you’d like.
You may think that those symptoms seem more like minor inconveniences or the unfortunate-yet-acceptable consequences of the lives we lead. If left unchecked, FHP can lead to many uncomfortable and downright nasty long-term effects:
Flattening of the Lordotic Curve. A healthy neck (aka cervical spine) has a natural lordotic curve that keeps the head properly balanced atop the spinal column. This is adversely challenged when our heads repeatedly tilt forward with poor posture for long periods of time.
Disc Compression + Spinal Degeneration. All of that extra weight hanging forward of your shoulders has to go somewhere, and unfortunately that somewhere is your neck. An extension of the spine, your neck is comprised of stacked vertebrae cushioned by fleshy discs—both of which may degrade after years of pressure they weren’t designed to handle.
Early Onset Arthritis. If the other two didn’t bother you too much, this one should. Arthritis is joint pain and inflammation resulting from overuse, and there is no cure once you’ve got it.
What Can I Do to Fix Forward Head Posture?
Perhaps the quickest (yet arguably the hardest) way to avoid entirely or begin combating the symptoms of FHP is to stop using your second brain entirely. While you’re at it, you should also sell everything and go start a new life in the woods while living entirely off the land. As nice as that may sound, not all of us can go full John Muir due to the many responsibilities of the lives we choose to lead. Thankfully, there are other options… and the amazing FeetUp Trainer makes them all infinitely more fun and accessible!
Avoid Excessive Use of Your Handheld Devices. Put. The. Cellphone. Down. RIGHT. NOW… well, right after you’re done reading this article.
Change Up How You Hold Your Device. Get ambidextrous! Try using your phone with your second favorite hand.
Adjust Your Viewing Position. Instead of lowering your head to view your screen, try raising the screen in line with your gaze.
Take Regular Breaks to Safely Move Your Neck. This includes regular neck exercises like gentle rotations, side bending, and chin tucks.
Enjoy a Cervical Inversion Vacation! A little spinal traction can go a long way—relaxing and releasing your spine during an inversion on your FeetUp Trainer can help relieve much of the pressure and weight that less-than-stellar posture tends to place on your neck. Check out Kilian, our founder, talking through some of the exercises above (as well as handy instructions on how to safely invert) using the FeetUp Trainer here: