Perhaps you have never thought of your head as a bowling ball. But, your head actually weighs around 10-12 pounds (some say as much as 14), with your brain taking up about 3 pounds of that. As you may know, 10-12 pounds is about the weight of an average bowling ball.
“So what?” you might say.
Here’s why this matters. For every inch your head goes forward when your chin droops, your head gains an extra 10 pounds because of gravity.
Now, scroll your mind over to a very common scenario. One where you are not sitting or standing up straight, but are looking down at something. Or, you are slouched in a “relaxed” position while watching TV or a movie. When this happens, the muscles in your neck have to support the extra weight.
And, let’s face it, we are often drawn to this position because most of what we do is in front of us.
Here is a bit of detail about what happens then, especially if this occurs often.
When your head is chronically forward, it’s called a “forward head posture” (go figure), and the muscles in your neck have to work extra hard. When a muscle is chronically stretched or short, it becomes weakened. It cannot generate as much force as it used to. That means, when needed, the neck cannot move OR stabilize your head as well as it should.
You may not think this is a big deal, but let’s take a look at the consequences. If your neck and head are out of position, your balance can be thrown off. That’s for three reasons. Your balance is very much dependent on your inner ear, your vision, and the ability of your body to tell where it is in space (called proprioception). Your neck has tons of receptors for letting you know where you are in space. And, obviously, your ears and eyes are up there in your head. If your head is in a compromised position a lot, you can lose some of the benefits that your neck and head give you in that regard.
Since our bodies are all connected together, once a head maintains “forward head posture”, other things get out of whack. What usually happens is that shoulders are rounded. Then the part of your back just below your neck gets tight from having to counteract that rounded position. Also down the line are many muscles in your upper back and the back of your shoulder that are chronically stretched. At the same time, they all have to work hard to keep you stable and/or moving. With this scenario, they can become sore, or unwilling to do much.
You may have experienced some of these things yourself. Pain in the back of your neck. Pain when you move your neck side to side. Pain when you reach behind you to get something out of the back seat of your car. And, unfortunately, headaches.
There is one other thing that I don’t want to skip over. When your shoulders are rounded, that makes it more difficult to take a deep breath. As you might imagine, this can be very detrimental to overall functioning, feelings of well being, and energy levels over time.
So much for the gloom and doom.
Let’s do something! Let’s get that head back to where it is supposed to be…right on top of your shoulders. Once there, you will be able to balance better, move better, and feel better, without strain.
Here’s two ways to do that:
Stand tall, shoulders back, shoulders open. Take a few fingers and push your neck straight to the back so that your head ends up directly over your shoulders. It may take several times to get it there, but once you do, you will feel the difference. Do this at least five times in a row, and many times during the day to remind you where your head is supposed to be.
Standing Horizontal Rows
Find a door jam or wall that juts out so that there is space on both sides. Stand tall against the wall so that the back of your head and shoulder blades touch the wall. Draw your naval to your spine to help you stand tall and to stop your low back from arching too much as you stand. Put both arms out in front of you at chest height. Draw both arms to the back, squeezing your shoulder blades together and opening your chest. Your elbows will end up behind your back. This is good. Enjoy the feeling of openness and energy that this gives you.
Standing Horizontal Row 1
Standing Horizontal Row 2
Do these exercises frequently to combat the forward head and rounded shoulder posture that so many of us fall in to. Then use the feel of it throughout the day as a benchmark for how your head and neck are meant to be. Once that bowling ball is balanced on top of your shoulders, you may end up with fewer aches and pains, and less fatigue.
All the best
© 2018 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.