by Brooke Lieb
A simple google search with the term “effects of head forward posture” yields results that show a possible correlation between degree of forward displacement and pain in computer users; increased time spent sitting at a desk increasing instances of neck pain; and a decrease in respiratory efficiency. Read more here.
Measures show that the greater the forward displacement of the head increases the increases the weight sent through the neck. In a neutral position, the average human head weights 10-12 pounds; as the head moves forward, this weight increases drastically:
At 15 degrees, the head weighs 27 pounds
At 30 degrees, it increases to 40 pounds
At 45 degrees, it weighs 49 pounds
At 60 degrees, it exerts a force of 60 pounds on the cervical spine.
How Can Alexander Lessons Help?
Alexander lessons teach students how to reduce the inclination to shift head weight forward through a variety of skills and interventions.
On the behavioral side of things, students learn internal and external cues to reduce the forward shift of their head in activities of daily living, including sitting, standing, waling, computer use, and specialized activities (examples: knitting, playing an instrument, sports).
Judith Leibowitz, Founder (1964) and first Director of Training (1967-1981) at The American Center for the Alexander Technique had lessons with F. M. Alexander. During a panel discussion at the 1986 International Alexander Technique Congress in Stonybrook, NY, Judy shared that F. M. gave her the following verbal cues while using his hands on to guide her: “Allow the neck to be free, to allow the neck to move back and up, to allow the head to move forward and up… For many of us in the Alexander community, the phrase “to allow the neck to move back and up” is not part of the verbal directions we have learned, but the actual event of the neck moving back and up is something we all promote in the use of our hands.
On the intervention side, part of many Alexander lessons include time when the student is resting on her back on a table. Alexander Teachers call this table work. There are many skills that can be illustrated, taught and refined on the table, where the feeling of losing balance and falling is mostly eliminated.
Teachers attend to the release and lengthening of muscles coming from the torso to the skull on the table, and coach the student to allow a lengthening of the curve of the neck. When laying down, as the neck lengthens it moves down towards the table. If the student was oriented upright, this movement would be back in space.
All of the instruction is done with a quality of touch that most students find pleasant. Lessons also help students release tension and learn how to do that for themselves outside of lessons.
Aesthetically, an increased forward carriage of the neck and head is not as visually appealing as a more erect trunk/neck/head relationship.
Whatever your motivations - looks or health - reducing the degree to which you displace your head forward could be good for your health.
(This post originally appeared on brookelieb.com)
N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com