Blog Fitness How to Improve Neck Posture and Stop Forward-Head Posture

How to Improve Neck Posture and Stop Forward-Head Posture

Do you feel like a turkey with a forward-head posture? Don’t feel alone because forward-head postures are a genuine problem for many people sitting long hours and working remotely. Learning how to improve neck posture gets rid of that turkey feeling. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to feel like a head-banging raver in a nightclub anymore. With corrective exercises and stretches, poor neck and head posture will become a thing of the past. Let’s discover how you can rid yourself of that forward-head posture. 

Why Good Neck Posture Matters

Good neck posture isn’t only about looking better or walking tall. Instead, it’s about avoiding two bad postures that come with consequences. Good neck posture matters.

Forward-Head Posture

Understand what causes poor neck posture and the consequences of leaving it unresolved. The Denver South Chiropractic and Rehab Clinic explains forward-head posture FHP (12). FHP places ten pounds more muscle pressure around your neck and upper back muscles for every inch it leans forward (12). 

Dr. Angela Bell and the Denver South Chiropractic and Rehab Clinic blame forward-head posture on the following modern causes (11) (12): 

  • Heavy backpacks,
  • Sleeping with your head raised too high,
  • Using electronics for long periods,
  • Driving in slouched positions,
  • Repetitive movements, 
  • Long periods of sitting at a desk, 
  • Whiplash or old neck injuries,
  • Degenerative conditions.

FHP has numerous side effects. Tokyo Medical University also connected FHP to poor respiratory functions (7). Dr. Angela Bell confirms the side effects related to forward-head posture (11): 

  • Pain and stiffness,
  • Myofascial triggers and migraines,
  • Joint disorders, 
  • Rounded shoulders,
  • Balance issues.

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Muscles Related to Forward-Head Posture

Riphah International University studied how stretching and strengthening specific muscles improved FHP (26). They found that FHP weakens and lengthens the following muscles: 

  • Neck Flexors – longus colli, longus capitis, 
  • Stabilizers and Retractors – teres minor, infraspinatus, rhomboids, and middle/lower trapezius

Riphah University found issues with the following muscles being shorter or overactive (26): 

  • Shoulder Protractors and Elevators – levator scapula, pectoralis major, and pectoralis minor
  • Upper Cervical Extensors – upper trapezius, splenius capitis, cervical multifidus, semispinalis, and longissimus capitis
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Upper-Crossed Syndrome

Few experts talk about the upper-crossed syndrome. Dr. Dan Brennan confirms that upper-crossed syndrome can result from poor posture (35). WebMD describes the most common causes as poor neck and shoulder posture and constantly hunching over a laptop. 

Modern lifestyles require hours of hunched work, and poor neck posture can easily lead to damaging effects. Seo-Yeung Gu from Daegu University in Korea and his associates studied how upper-crossed syndrome can affect your proprioception (22). Proprioception is important for awareness of body position and balance. 

How to Test Your Neck Posture

The Comprehensive Spine Institute shares how to tell if you have poor posture (29). You need someone’s help to measure this test. More than two inches indicates poor neck posture. Then, follow the instructions to test whether you have excellent or lousy neck posture:

  1. Stand against a wall with the back of your head touching it,
  2. Ensure your buttocks and shoulders touch the wall,
  3. Let someone measure how much space is between the wall and your neck.

how to improve neck posture  

How to Improve Poor Neck Posture

Luckily, Mahidol University in Bangkok studied whether stretching can improve neck posture and function with positive results (32). The Faculty of Sports Sciences and the Sports Spine Center reviewed how specific exercises positively improved forward-head posture (6). 

But first, let’s discover lifestyle changes to improve your neck posture once you start exercising and stretching

4 Ways to Improve Neck Posture Daily

The Comprehensive Spine Institute recommends three changes to improve bad posture (29). Sleeping positions, losing weight, and practicing daily good posture habits will ensure your neck posture improves as it should. 

Use a Cervical Support Pillow to Improve Neck Posture

The Iran University of Medical Sciences had positive results after testing ergonomic latex pillows on head and neck posture (31). Their study showed that you could improve your neck posture without effort while you sleep on a cervical support pillow. 

Lose Weight to Improve Neck Posture

Dr. Shaziya Allarakha confirms how excess body fat may cause poor neck posture and buffalo humps (37). Obesity is among the six reasons behind poor neck posture or buffalo humps behind your neck. Losing weight can have positive effects on your posture. 

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Practice Good Posture to Improve It

Muscle memory refers to how your muscles gain memories of repetitive actions. So, practicing proper posture in your workspace can help muscles memorize it. Psychologist R. Fields explains how muscle memory enables you to practice to improve neck posture (13).

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy recommends these practices to improve neck, shoulder, and upper body posture daily (1): 

  • Sit upright with office chair lumbar support or a rolled towel behind your lower back,
  • Regularly stretch your shoulder muscles during the day,
  • Move your monitor to keep your eyes level throughout the day,
  • Take frequent breaks to stretch and exercise your muscles,
  • Move your feet around and avoid sitting cross-legged at a desk.

Adjust Your Backpack to Improve Neck Posture

The K.M. Patel Institute of Physiotherapy studied the effects of backpack loading on the neck, back, and shoulder posture (8). Backpacks weighing 18% or more of your body weight can cause poor neck posture. So, unload some of that heavy baggage in bags.  

Read more: How Should You Sleep To Improve Your Posture? Simple Tips & Tricks

What to Avoid With Exercises and Stretches

Stretches and exercises are good for improving neck posture. However, Dr. Carol DerSarkissian offers advice on how to do neck exercises to avoid injury safely (18): 

  • Don’t exercise with severe neck, shoulder, or back pain,
  • Discuss the practices and stretches with a physician if you have old injuries,
  • Avoid resting for days.

Neck Exercises and Stretches to Improve Posture

Rush University says good posture has countless benefits (33). Your bones and joints feel less stressed, you breathe more efficiently, and you improve mental wellness. Each exercise or yoga pose includes a tutorial to practice it safely. 

However, use the instructions under each neck stretch in the daily routine. 

4 Routine Range-of-Motion Stretches to Improve Neck Posture

Stretching is an excellent way to improve neck posture. So, discover stretches that work as a routine. Do them in order daily to see improvements. 

Neck Extension Stretch

A neck extension stretch is good to start the routine slowly. It’s the natural movement of your head backward. It may loosen muscles and stiffness while warming up the neck. Follow these instructions: 

  1. Keep your head straight before tiling it backward gently.
  2. Only tilt as far as you can to feel slight tension. 
  3. Hold the sky-staring position for 20 seconds. 
  4. Return to the straight position before repeating the sky-stare and hold four times. 
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Flexion Neck Stretch

Armor Physical Therapy suggests adding a flexion neck stretch to the neck range of motion exercise routine (19). Flexion neck exercises and stretching can help improve mobility and strengthen the neck muscles. Follow these instructions: 

  1. Support your back correctly while sitting in a chair.
  2. Straighten your head and neck.
  3. Slowly bend forward to touch your chest with your chin.
  4. Flex your neck as far as it can go without hurting yourself.
  5. Hold your chin as low as possible for 10  seconds. 
  6. Return to the straight head and neck position. 
  7. Repeat the flexion stretch four times. 

Lateral Neck Flexion Stretch

Armor Physical Therapy recommends neck tilts to improve neck posture as part of daily exercise routines (19). This releases neck muscle tension and improves blood flow to your cervical spine vertebrae. Use these instructions to do lateral neck tilts:

  1. Start with a straight head and neck posture.
  2. Gently tilt your head toward your right shoulder.
  3. Allow your ear to come close to touching your shoulder or to touch it.
  4. Stop if you experience pain. 
  5. Hold your ear to your shoulder for 10 seconds. 
  6. Return your head and neck to a straight posture. 
  7. Repeat the ear-to-neck flexion stretch four times. 
  8. Alternate between your right and left shoulder. 

Neck Rotation Stretch

Armor Physical Therapy suggests adding a neck rotation stretch to your daily exercise routine (19). This increases the strength of neck muscles and relieves pressure from the cervical spine vertebrae. Follow these instructions to practice neck rotation: 

  1. Hold your head and neck straight to start.
  2. Turn your head to the right gently while feeling the tension begin in your neck.
  3. Stop immediately if the pressure turns painful.
  4. Hold your rotated neck position for 10 seconds. 
  5. Return your head to a straight position.
  6. Alternate between rotating left and right. 
  7. Repeat the rotation four times.

how to improve neck posture  

3 Neck Exercises to Improve Posture

Exercise also corrects bad neck posture. So, let’s discover five exercises for good posture. 

Chin Tucks

Chin tucks correct poor neck posture and FHP. The Samarpan Physiotherapy Clinic recommends a chin tuck exercise for improved neck posture (4). Meanwhile, if you do them correctly, they stretch the muscles at the back of the skull and front of the neck. 

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Tutorial

Modified Supine Chin Tuck

The Samarpan Physiotherapy Clinic suggests using modified variations of a chin tuck exercise to improve neck posture further (4). The supine modification allows you to lie flat on the ground to support your back while you do chin tucks. 

Tutorial

Retractor Neck Exercise

Dr. Alan Mandell is a chiropractor in South Florida (24). Dr. Mandell recommends a forward-head correction exercise to strengthen the muscles in and around the neck (17). It’s a long neck extension that improves your neck posture.

Tutorial

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3 Neck and Shoulder Exercises to Improve Posture

Neck and shoulder exercises matter because it isn’t only neck muscles to blame for bad posture. Three exercises to help your neck and shoulder posture: 

Single-Arm Pec Stretch

Open-arm pec stretches help to loosen the chest muscles to align the shoulder blades. It extends the front pec muscles in your chest walls to improve posture. Dr. Dan Wright suggests using a single-arm pec stretch to improve neck and shoulder posture (23). 

Tutorial

McKenzie Cervical Spine Retraction and Extension Exercise

Dr. Niraj Kumar and Siddhartha Sen found the McKenzie cervical exercises effectively correct posture to reduce neck pain (20). The recommended methods also strengthen neck and shoulder muscles to improve more than the neck’s posture. 

Tutorial

Upper Trapezius Stretch

The Arizona Orthopedic Physiotherapy Clinic recommends using an upper trapezius stretch to improve shoulder and neck posture (27). The upper trapezius muscles can tense because of poor neck or shoulder posture. Stretching them can help align your shoulders and neck. 

Tutorial

3 Poses for Yoga to Improve Neck Posture

The Central South and Hunan Universities in China found yoga may be beneficial in relieving neck pain (9). Participants may find pain relief from the muscle tension easing and the range of motion improving around the neck. This means yoga may improve neck posture through muscle stretching.   

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Cobra Pose

Garden State Pain and Orthopedics recommends using the cobra pose for fixing your neck posture (34). The cobra pose opens your chest to stretch the muscles for improved posture. It stretches your spine into your cervical region and loosens the muscles in your shoulders. 

Tutorial

Mountain Pose

Doctor of Physical Therapy Gregory Minis reviewed an article about using mountain pose as an exercise for better posture (10). The mountain pose can support better posture by improving upper body alignment. It helps your neck, shoulders, and head posture. 

Tutorial

Locust Pose

WebMD recommends the locust pose to improve posture (14). The locust pose works the erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, and longissimus muscles to improve neck posture. It also stretches and strengthens the trapezius muscles in your neck and shoulders. 

Tutorial

Read more: 20 Stretches to Improve Posture for the Perfect Alignment

FAQs

Can I Discover How to Improve Bad Neck Posture?

The Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand, proved how stretching improves neck posture (32). Stretching neck and shoulder muscles three or more times weekly improves your neck posture. This was a randomized controlled trial, and anyone could achieve positive results. 

Can I Learn How to Strengthen and Improve Neck Posture?

The Fourth Military Medical University and Military Hospital in China studied how exercise improved muscle strength in pilots (21). Pilots require neck muscle strength to respond fast to changes around them. Neck exercises do strengthen the muscles for better posture. 

Can I Discover How to Improve Neck and Shoulder Posture?

The Daedu and Youngsan Universities found positive neck and shoulder postures after various exercise programs, including the McKenzie exercises (3). Rounded shoulder and forward-head posture improved with the McKenzie exercises. 

Can I Learn How to Improve Head and Neck Posture?

The Riphah International University studied the effects of strengthening and stretching various muscles for improved posture (26). Forward-head posture can change with strengthening exercises and stretching to improve neck and head posture. 

The Bottom Line

Discovering ways to improve your neck posture is a journey worth traveling when you realize the many easy exercises and stretches. Meanwhile, daily habit changes can also improve your neck posture and eliminate that turkey-styled, head-banging, raver neck posture. 

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. 7 Best Posture Practices for Sitting at a Desk All Day (2022, foothillsrehab.com)
  2. Cervical Spine Retraction & Extension – McKenzie Exercise for Neck (2015, youtube.com)
  3. Changes in the rounded shoulder and forward head posture according to exercise methods – PMC (2017, nih.gov)
  4. Chin tuck exercise – Health Benefits, How to do? (2022, samarpanphysioclinic.com)
  5. Cobra Pose For Beginners – Effective stretch for low back pain & herniated discs (2018, youtube.com)
  6. Effectiveness of Therapeutic Exercise on Forward Head Posture: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis – PubMed (2018, nih.gov)
  7. Effect of forward head posture on the thoracic shape and respiratory function – PubMed (2019, nih.gov)
  8. Effect of backpack loading on cervical and sagittal shoulder posture in standing and after dynamic activity in school-going children – PMC (2019, nih.gov)
  9. Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain – PMC (2019, nih.gov)
  10. Exercises and tips to improve your posture (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
  11. Forward head posture: Definition, cause, and how to treat it (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
  12. Forward Head Posture Explained | Common Posture Problems (n.d., denversouthchiro.com)
  13. How Does “Muscle Memory” Work? (2021, psychologytoday.com)
  14. How to Do Locust Yoga Pose (2022, webmd.com)
  15. LEARN HOW TO do the MOUNTAIN POSE | Tadasana | Simple Yoga | Yoga For Beginners | Mind Body Soul (2019, youtube.com)
  16. Locust Pose (Salabhasana Pose) Benefits, How to Do & Contraindications by Yogi Sandeep – Siddhi Yoga (2020, youtube.com)
  17. Most Important Forward Head Correction Exercise (Help Correct Forward Head Posture) – Dr. Mandell (2015, youtube.com)
  18. Neck Exercises: Dos and Don’ts (2021, webmd.com)
  19. Neck Range-of-Motion Exercises | Neck Pain | Armor PT (n.d, armorpt.com)
  20. (PDF) Postural Correction in Patients with Neck Pain (2021, researchgate.net)
  21. Physical exercise improved muscle strength and pain in neck and shoulder in military pilots – PMC (2022, nih.gov)
  22. Relationship between position sense and reposition errors according to the degree of upper crossed syndrome – PMC (2016, nih.gov)
  23. Single Arm Pec Stretch (2017, youtube.com)
  24. Special | Children | Hear Aid Technology (n.d., motivationaldoc.com)
  25. Stop Doing Chin Tucks Like THIS (2022, youtube.com)
  26. Strengthening and Stretching Exercise to Improve Forward Head Posture and Rounded Shoulders – Full-Text View (2020, clinicaltrials.gov)
  27. Stretch of the Week: Upper Trapezius – Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy (2016, azopt.net)
  28. Supine Chin Tucks (2018, youtube.com)
  29. Take Our Posture Test: How to Tell If You Have Bad Posture (2018, csiortho.com)
  30. The Benefits of Neck Stretches | North Tampa Spine & Joint Center (2012, northtampachiropractor.com)
  31. The Effect of Ergonomic Latex Pillow on Head and Neck Posture and Muscle Endurance in Patients With Cervical Spondylosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial – PMC (2019, nih.gov)
  32. The effectiveness of a neck and shoulder stretching exercise program among office workers with neck pain: a randomized controlled trial – PubMed (2016, nih.gov)
  33. The Power of Good Posture | Rush System (n.d., rush.edu)
  34. Top 3 Exercises for Fixing Your Posture | Orthopedics and Pain Medicine Physician located in Edison, Clifton, Hazlet, Jersey City, and West Orange, NJ | Garden State Pain & Orthopedics (2017, gardenstatepain.com)
  35. Upper Crossed Syndrome: What It Is, How to Treat It, and How to Avoid It in the Future (2021, webmd.com)
  36. Upper Trapezius Stretch (2017, youtube.com)
  37. What Causes a Buffalo Hump on the Back of the Neck? Treatment & Exercise (2021, medicinenet.com)
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