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Forward Head Posture: Pain Patterns, Causes, Self-Care

Forward-Head Posture (FHP) is a syndrome. That means that it is a collection of symptoms that lead to more specific diagnoses. FHP, defined simply, is when, in your resting posture, your head stays positioned in front of your shoulders. How far in front? Many definitions say that it occurs when the external auditory meatus (ear canal) is anterior (in front of) the coronal plane (middle) of your shoulders. If you go by this definition, most of us have it and the ones who don’t look a little bit robotic.

People consistently get relief from pain when this postural problem is corrected. Many of the trigger point posts in this blog refer back to the exercises that correct FHP. It is associated with many patterns in stiff, painful necks, headaches, pain in the torso and pain down the arms.

This main post discusses the condition in general and has a related self-care post.

Look through the posts in the grid below to find a more specific post about your pain pattern. You will find more specific self-care for your particular pain pattern as well.

This collection has many posts in common with the collections on Stiff Neck and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. These collections have strongly related structural problems but are not identical.

Painful from being
short and strong or
weak and overstretched?

This condition has both muscles that are short and strong as well as muscles that are weak and overstretched. Short, strong muscles are more likely to produce pain by compressing and entrapping other structures. Weak, overstretched muscles tend to have over-active trigger points that change our movement patterns by producing pain when we make quick movements. Both types of muscles tend to be part of a global effort to balance the movement of the local structures and the body as a whole. Their tension (and trigger points) is regulated by nerve receptors called proprioceptors that detect the speed of movement and position. Proprioceptors are located in joints, connective tissues, and the muscles themselves. Trigger points can be activated and deactivated by mobilizing joints. In a postural problem, like this, the structure needs to be globally changed so that it doesn’t perpetuate the joint problems that activate trigger points.

These posts include:

  • Trigger point patterns and how people describe the pain
  • How you activate and intensify the pain pattern
  • Self-care to show you how to get quick relief on your own
  • Stretches and exercises that provide longer-lasting relief
  • Brief anatomy review of the involved muscle
  • Yoga poses that open this muscle
  • Treatment notes for therapists

Note that we are in the process of converting these posts into a more informative and accessible format. Thank you for your patience.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistencies in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.