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Posture’s Impact on the Musculoskeletal and Neural Systems


By Brian Klepacki, MS, CSCS, CISSN, FMS

posture-important-articleI’ll confess up front: I have some pretty bad posture.

But I know I need to work on it and I do (I really do) make an effort in trying to stay in perfect alignment in all that I do. It’s been bad ever since I was in high school and most likely even longer than that.

Having good posture is one of those things that everyone keeps in the back of their mind as something they know they should have but never get around to working on. Kind of like eating more vegetables and saving more money.

It is estimated that 66% to 90% of people suffer from forward head posture. The chances are very good that you suffer from it as well, just like I do. (Griegel-Morris 1992)

Even as I’m sitting here writing this to you I keep forcing myself to adjust my body in my seat. It’s amazing how quickly things change just by simply scooting your butt back in your chair and sitting up tall. And it’s amazing how quickly the body deteriorates by not adjusting your posture and falling into the slouched position forcing the head to extend further than it should.

So let’s look at the many ways posture impacts the musculoskeletal and neural systems within the body:


Rick and Becky-article
We ALL care about how we look and to some even more important is how we look to each other.  Appearance is the very first thing people measure when first meeting someone, interviewing for a job or going out on a date.

Just by standing or sitting up straight, you change your appearance to one of instant confidence and security. It is impossible to feel low or sad when you are upright and smiling. Think of those in royalty, those on the silver screen, and those divas gracefully walking the catwalk. These talented individuals are boasting long lean necklines, head held straight, shoulders square, not shrugging up or slumped down.

You will portray confidence and enthusiasm that is very VERY attractive to a large number of people. Slouch, slump and frown and see how you look – disheartened, bored, tired, old and fat.

Forward Head Posture or ‘turtle neck’ as some call it will quickly rob you of your height up to two inches and add you’ll look 5-10 pounds heavier than you are. If you’re slouched over with your head in a forward position, your appearance is instantly affected negatively.

What’s more appealing to you, one who is slouched over in a closed off position or one who is standing tall with a sense of confidence in how they look? That’s a no brainer. Everyone should agree on that one.

Hormone Regulation:

A 2010 study that Dana Carney, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley, co-authored a study that was among the first to demonstrate a link between body positioning and brain chemistry. It showed that when people took on “power poses” – standing in various postures reflecting confidence (chest up, shoulders back, head raised), regardless of whether they felt confident – it increased levels of testosterone and lowered levels of cortisol in the brain.

And as you may or may not know, testosterone is a hormone associated with self-confidence, the development of male reproductive tissue, as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle mass and bone density.

Whereas cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”, which has been linked to rapid and unwanted fat gain.

Interestingly enough, by moving from a head forward posture into a powerful and strong posture (as seen in the comparison pictures below) for 2 minutes can increase testosterone levels by 20% and decrease cortisol levels by 25%. (Carney 2010)


Forward Head Posture or (FHP for short) in particular has been shown to lead to a decrease in the strength in the muscles involved in the breathing process which will decrease your breathing and can reduce your lung capacity by 30% (Kapreli 2009) (Dimitriadis 2013).

A head forward posture leads to a decrease in cervical lordosis which blocks the action of the hyoid muscles, especially the inferior hyoid, which is responsible for lifting the first rib during inhalation.


FHP can also lead to the blocking of your airway while you sleep leading to a decrease in oxygen to your brain when sleeping and a decrease in the quality of your sleep overall. (Ozbek  1998).

When the airway is blocked or obstructed, snoring and noisy mouth breathing will occur and the statistics for this problem are widespread and alarming.  Approximately 45% of the population snore and 1 in 4 people are habitual snorers.

This of course can be caused from multiple things like smoking, drinking alcohol, excessive body weight among other things but ultimately it’s due to the tissues and muscles in and around the throat area breaking down and/or failing.

As previously mentioned, having forward head posture creates an imbalance in the muscles surrounding the throat and this can lead to a poor or obstructed airway inducing snoring or noisy mouth breathing.

Due to the misalignment of your head and torso, your airway can become blocked when you sleep which starves your brain of oxygen, severely disrupts sleep quality and leads to snoring.

Another common and very serious issue is sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is also caused from an obstructed airway but is the more severe breathing related issue compared to snoring and noisy mouth breathing.

With this disorder, the airway becomes so blocked that breathing is limited or stopped all together causing the individual to wake up gasping for air.  This of course is a very frightening problem to have and it affects thousands of people all around the world.

All things considered, having a forward head posture can kill the quality of your sleep and you’re more likely to suffer from snoring, noisy mouth breathing and sleep apnea when you have FHP.

Without the rest you need your work, relationships and energy levels will be negatively affected.

Vigor and Alertness:

Dutch behavioral scientist Erik Peper has put in extensive research into this area. He regularly makes participants in his lectures stand up and stretch all while maintaining a picture-perfect posture, for similar reasons why exercise has been linked to happiness, like here:

Here are three fascinating things that happened the instant our posture changes:

  • When we sit up straight with our chin elevated and retracted inward, we are more likely to remember positive memories or think of something positive in general, according to Peper’s personal experiments.
  • Recent research found that 92% of people found it easier to generate positive thoughts in an upright posture compared to a slouched posture. (Wilson 2004)
  • Another insight was that if we move dynamically (skip, jump, run, etc.) during breaks, we can significantly increase our energy levels. A slow, slumped walk with rounded shoulders and a dropped head on the other hand (similar to texting while walking), can do the exact opposite and drain us of our energy.


So How does this happen? Why does a forward head with rounded shoulders affect us so much?

When the head is forward over the spine, the brain may not be receiving sufficient blood flow, nerve impulses, and oxygen due to compression of the carotid arteries and surrounding nerve endings.

If this compression is severe enough, it can result in a central nervous system dysfunction. And the scary part is that it doesn’t take much to cause a restriction within this part of the body.

As is always the case with the body, when one link in the chain is broken or damaged, the strength of the whole chain is weakened.  FHP not only negatively impacts appearance, hormone regulation, breathing and energy, it also can be linked to digestive issues, harmful effects on your vision and hearing, decrease your range of motion and even cause dizziness and balance issues.

Take This Quick Self-Test To See If You
Have Forward Head Posture

3 Ways to Get Rid of a Headache Naturally

February 3, 2016 by  
Filed under Health and Fitness, Recent Posts



Written by: Chris Wilson, CPT, RKC, CSN

Headaches plague millions of people every day all over the globe.  They can quickly ruin your mood, hurt your performance on the job or at the gym and headaches can steal away quality time with those you love.

Unfortunately, many of the people out there falling victim to routine headaches turn to drugstores and pharmaceutical companies for relief.  If you’re reading this then you’re likely looking for some other, healthier alternatives to combating headaches.

In extreme cases where people are dealing with violent migraines and taking prescription drugs to deal with them, this information may offer little help but could still be beneficial.  It is recommended that those individuals seek professional medical guidance.

But for those of you getting the occasional headache and feeling frustrated and annoyed, this is for you.

Painful headaches can be caused by a myriad of things, things like: strong odors, dehydration, eye strain, head trauma (bumped your head), breathing problems and caloric intake to name a few.  If you’re sensitive to bright lights and perfumes, you may experience headaches often.  If you sit in front of a computer for hours at a time you may experience headaches daily.

For those of you dealing with some of those types of headaches, it’s best to remove yourself from those situations as often or regularly as possible.  Easier said than done.

I know personally that my wife is very sensitive to strong odors, bright lights and loud noises, it’s just that simple so she takes measures to deal with those things.  The 3 tips below absolutely help her with the headaches she suffers from regularly.

Here are 3 things you can do RIGHT NOW to naturally get rid of your troublesome headaches.

#1: Deep Breathing

It may sound boring and unnecessary to some but ‘breathing better’ is something most of us could do.  Too many people breathe shallow all day long, myself included.  Instead of breathing into our bellies and really forcing oxygen into our lungs, we breathe into our chest.  This ‘tight’ way of breathing doesn’t do a very good job of oxygenating our blood which robs our brain of life-giving oxygen.

So what happens in the brain when it is starving for more oxygen?  It hurts because brain cells are very sensitive and die without oxygen as the blood vessels begin to constrict.  A simple test would be to hold your breath as long as you can until you have to gasp for air, I’m sure you’ve experienced this sensation while swimming underwater.

What happens?  Your head throbs a little.  If you did this repeatedly, you would bring about a self-induced headache.

Now these are symptoms are more typical of a migraine or vascular headache but they help prove a point about chronic shallow breathing and how your brain responds to disrupted and poor breathing.

Deep breathing can be done anywhere and at any time.  It is preferred that you do this with your eyes closed to help make it more relaxing and to allow for improved focus on your breathing.

The key is to take long breaths, breathing in slowly up to 4 seconds and breathing out slowly also around 4 seconds.  If you did this for only 2-3 minutes, you would not only feel calmer, you may also notice relief in your head.  It is recommended that you do this up to 10 or 15 minutes for maximal benefit.

Surely you’ve heard of tension headaches before.  Our lives are super busy and can be very stressful.  We bottle up so much negative energy and sometimes we must remember to just breathe deeply into our bellies and take a moment to just unplug from the world.

 #2: Move Your Body Frequently

walking-article-sizeI know what you’re thinking, “I exercise every day, moving my body is not my problem.”

First off, good for you, exercise is awesome! Never stop that.  However, that’s not what I’m talking about.

You see exercise is terrific for the 60-90 minutes we do it each day.  But what about those other 15-16 hours where we are awake and not exercising.  We are typically sitting during those hours.  We sit in the car and many jobs today require a great deal of sitting at a computer with our spine, head and neck in poor posture.

The best thing to do if your day to day involves a ton of sitting is to stand up and walk.  Being upright and walking helps to naturally reset the spine and place your body in proper position.  Why is it that getting up to get a drink of water down the hallway and walking back to your desk helps perk you up?

Because the simple act of moving the body stimulated the cells, improved circulation and blood flow to the brain and drinking water always helps to restore some vigor and energy.

Every 1-2 hours no matter what it is you do, stand up and move for a few minutes.  This simple act done repeatedly throughout the day can instantly improve performance, poor posture as well as mood and brain function which will help combat unwanted headaches.

 #3: Improve your Posture in 5-seconds ANYWHERE

Good posture is something we hear about from a young age.  “Sit up straight, hold your head up, no slouching!”  Sound familiar?

These tips from childhood become more meaningful as we age.  The spine is under constant stress from all of the sitting previously mentioned.  The more often we can put the body into proper alignment, the better we will feel and good posture begins with the head.


This again helps with circulation throughout the body and brain and puts our body into optimal postural alignment allowing everything to function better.

Simply stated, the more often you can place yourself into optimal head posture with your head up, shoulders back and chin in, the better your chances of reversing the undesirable effects of poor Forward Head Posture (FHP).

Here is how you do it:

You can do this either sitting or standing.  It may actually be easier to perform this seated so that you can focus on all of the steps while also giving you something you can do at your desk, in your car, at the dinner table or anywhere you may be seated.

First, sit as tall as you can by elevating the top of your head towards the ceiling.  As you do this, you may notice your shoulders moving backward and your chest sticking outward. Good, you’re on the right track.

Next, try to drop or press your shoulders downward slightly as you tuck your chin in drawing your head slightly backward.  Rest your arms in your lap or on the arms of your chair.  You should also feel that natural curve in your lower back improved.

Take in deep breaths thinking about each step.  Hold this position for 5-seconds and then relax for a few seconds.

Continue holding the position for 5-seconds at a time up to 10 times all together.  This action can be repeated as often as you desire throughout the day.

You may find yourself trying to naturally hold this stronger head position while driving or working at your desk.  This improved head posture can start to become habitual and that’s a very good thing.

The bonus is that you may find a reduction in headaches due to less slouching and poor forward head posture in your life.  This optimal position helps to improve breathing, circulation, energy levels and confidence.

I guess our parents and teachers knew something we didn’t about poor head posture and its negative effects!

Take This Quick Self-Test To See If You
Have Forward Head Posture