An anterior head carriage is a condition in which your head is held forward off its correct anatomical position. When you stand straight with your head, back and legs aligned, the muscles and joints in your body adequately support and stabilize each other. Constantly positioning your head forward out of normal alignment causes the rest of your body, especially your neck and shoulders, to arch forward to compensate. This results in additional pressure and stress and leads over time to an unhealthy posture that requires corrective exercises and stretches.
Anteriorly positioning your head is a normal bodily function. The muscles in your neck and shoulders naturally support this function when an activity or situation warrants it. However, consistently positioning your head in a forward position causes the supporting muscles to become overworked, weakening and tightening some of them. This results in an upper crossed syndrome, also called a student or corporate syndrome, in which your upper trapezius, deep neck extensors and anterior shoulders become tight and your mid-back muscles and deep neck flexors become weak and lengthened.
You can correct anterior head carriage by actively stretching your neck and shoulder muscles, improving their flexibility and strength. Neck retraction stretches strengthen your neck muscles by having you pull your head back as far as possible and then slightly down, pulling your chin in toward your chest. Hold the stretch for up to one minute. You can improve your neck and shoulder flexibility with neck rotation stretches. Turn your head toward one shoulder and hold the stretch for 30 seconds before repeating on the other side. Perform either stretch while standing or sitting.
Correcting an anterior head carriage can relieve tension and strengthen the muscles in your neck, shoulders and back, allowing your torso to be properly supported while increasing your range of motion. This improves your posture and circulation, helping prevent or alleviate headaches, muscle aches and joint restrictions. A stronger posture is essential to get the most out of any exercise regimen, allowing you progress toward your fitness goals while preventing undue stress and injury.
Perform your stretching in a slow and controlled manner. Avoid sudden movements or going beyond the comfort point of each stretch. Hold each stretch the moment you feel it; forcing the stretch beyond this point can stress the smaller, softer tissues in your neck and cause injury. Perform each stretch twice each day, at most, until your muscle strength, flexibility and body posture improve. Limit your stretching frequency to once a day per exercise if you’re combining them with other neck strengthening or posture correcting exercises.
- Photo Credit Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images