The weight of keeping your client’s posture in line lifted in 3 easy steps
Some people would argue that the head weighs a little more, or a little less, than 10 pounds depending on what they think may be in there! But typically, the human brain weighs about 3 pounds and the weight of the skull, jaw, teeth, eyes, muscles, and skin add an-other 7 pounds. If you are sporting dreadlocks, then you could add even a few more pounds to the mix! In a nutshell, your head weighs like two 5 pound bags of flour. That is a lot of weight for your muscles to hold up all day. The easiest and most efficient place for your body to hold up all that weight, is directly on top of the neck. I know that sounds kind of like “duh,” but most people I know, carry their head weight forward of their neck.
Inching Towards a Disaster
From the side view, your ear should technically be in line vertically with your shoulder, not forward of it. Some of the reasons for this posture are that our eyes live in the front on our face. We tend to lean the head and eyes toward whatever we are looking at and tired straining eyes make it even worse. And since much of our time is spent staring at computer screens, driving, and ‘relaxing’ at the end of the day in recliners watching TV, you have a perfect recipe for disaster in the body. Why is it a disaster? Forward head posture is associated with a host of medical issues including:
- Tension headaches
- Neck, shoulder, and upper back pain and tension
- Instability in the neck
- Disc issues
- Pinched nerves
- Breathing issues caused by weakened respiratory muscles and a poorly aligned trachea
- Abnormal eye or ear function
- … and even mental disorders For every inch your head sits forward, the weight of the head is increased by about 10 more pounds. So it is possible that your head could actually weigh 30 pounds, but sadly it would not be due to having a massive brain!
Posture is also often connected to our personalities and self-image. I once worked with a hair stylist client specifically on her upper body and forward head posture. Through some manual work and re-education we had completely freed her neck, head, chest, shoulders, and upper back for her to assume good alignment. Upon leaving my session, she started to tell me a story that sounded like “Girl, you just would not believe . . . . . “By the time she got to the end of her story, her posture had migrated completely back into the old posture she had just minutes ago relinquished. Her bad posture was very much associated with how she expressed herself. Developing awareness of how you present yourself through your body to the world adds yet an-other layer of making some long lasting change.
Get Their Head Straight in 3 Steps
Perform the Assessments
- Have your client lay down on their back on the floor. This will give you a pretty good gauge on whether their head is comfortable and in good alignment, or whether some daily intervention may be needed. If their neck is arched back with more of the top of the head contacting the floor (instead of the middle of the back of the head), they most likely have a forward head posture.
- If lying down on the floor causes pain of any kind, another assessment approach would be to lean the back of their body against a wall. Have them move their feet as far from the wall as necessary to accomplish the contact of the pelvis, shoulders, and back of the head.
*If their head just can’t touch the wall, please don’t force it. I don’t believe in muscularly holding posture as suggested by some fitness and health folks. Bad posture is a product of a dysfunctional holding pat-tern, so correcting it by holding it elsewhere doesn’t actually fix it. It just gives the appearance of being fixed. Figuring out what in their body prevents their head from comfortably touching the wall is a better approach and leads us to step two.
Identify the Caustic Actions
Next step is to identify reasons why their head may be forward.
- Is their chest tight and needs to be stretched?
- Do they hold their arms slightly bent all of the time shortening the front fascial line of the arm?
- Do their habits cause the issue?
- Are their eyes straining and projected forward in order to see?
- Do they have enlarged adenoids or other breathing obstructions that may make them pitch their head forward or up to get an adequate breath?
- Are their shoulders rounded forward on their body?
- Does their clenched jaw cause them to push their head forward?
- Do they sit slouched at the bottom of their pelvis which causes them to slide their head forward?
- Is their sleeping pillow to high?
- Are they always in a rush or do they express who they are through that forward head posture?
There are so many possibilities and combinations of possibilities to look at. Once you have an understanding of what might be feeding the posture, you can take the appropriate measures to make slow and steady changes. Bodies like changes to be slow and steady, and those are the kind of changes that stick.
Provide a Plan
The third step is to make a regular plan for their particular issues. Depending on their daily habits, you may need a daily routine—or better yet several 3 minute daily routines to remind their head how much happier it would be in proper alignment. Some treatment possibilities are stretching or lengthening tight tissues such as the bi-ceps, pecs, and forearms; doing movement mobilization exercises to create a more flexible ribcage, chest, spine, and shoulders, stretching the abs and hip flexors daily, leaning against the wall regularly, and most importantly . . . awareness to where their 10 pound head is in space throughout the day.
Kaylee Cahoon, BCSI, LMT, CPI, is a nationally recognized Movement Educator, Internationally Board Certified Structural Integration Practitioner, certi-fied Pilates Instructor, former internation-ally touring professional dancer, former television and theater choreographer, and a teacher of teachers. Her 30 plus years of various somatic movement training, explorations and discoveries combined with anatomy, physics, and neurosci-ence, provide the infrastructure for her perceptive and integrative teachings. In private practice Kaylee’s work to enhance movement function includes high-profile clients, high-performance athletes, post-rehabilitation, chronic pain issues, and even traumatic brain injury. Kaylee teaches CE workshops for both manual and movement therapists in integrat-ing movement and manual techniques, structural body reading, and developing structural balancing strategies. She is the creator of the SMARTCore® Method, a neuromuscular approach to functional fit-ness which has introduced the innovative resistance based skateboard, theCoreG-lide® to the world of fitness. Learn more about SMARTCore® Method and the CoreGlide® at SMARTCoreMethod.com