The Forward Head Syndrome

Forward head syndrome is a condition involving the neck and upper back. Viewing an individual from the side, it is seen as the head shifted in front of the shoulder creating a hunchback or old man position. It is also called student or executive syndrome because it is common to see in those who sit at a desk or use computers for a long period of time.

The forward head syndrome is the result of structural imbalances in the alignment of the spinal bones called vertebra and the muscles of the front and back of the neck as well as the chest and upper back.

Many individuals are not aware of this condition until they begin to develop symptoms. These can include neck or mid-back pain, headaches, numbness or pain down the arm or shoulder pain. All these can be related to increased mechanical stress of the forward head syndrome. Left untreated, there is an increased risk of disc (the cushion between the spinal bones) degeneration, frozen shoulder syndrome or rotator cuff issues.

The Cause

Typically, the forward head syndrome develops slowly over time as our spine changes due to poor lifestyle habits. Some of the main causes can include:

• Poor posture such as standing with shoulders slumped forward
• Sleeping with the head propped on multiple pillows
• Sitting at a desk or computer for long periods
• Children carrying heavy backpacks
• Sitting slumped down while watching TV or playing video games

These bad postural habits initially cause a stress on the joints of our spine, slowly stretching the supporting ligaments, allowing the spinal bones to loose their normal position and mobility. The longer we maintain these positions; our muscles begin to adapt further aggravating the condition.

We find the chest and muscles of the back of the neck become contracted and tight while the upper back muscles that extend into the shoulders become stretched and tight. The long-term tension in these muscles eventually causes increased stress on the spinal bones and joints.

This process left untreated not only results in horrible posture, but increased pain cycles of headache, neck pain and arthritic degeneration of the neck.


The best solution for the forward head syndrome is to change our lifestyle, diminishing or eliminating all together poor postural habits. Also, early postural assessments by a chiropractic physician can detect a subtle shifting allowing quicker intervention, which means less treatment.

Children should be strongly encouraged not to sit slumped watching TV, texting or playing video games.


Once a forward head syndrome has been discovered, one of the most effective forms of treatment is chiropractic care. Through gentle spinal manipulations called adjustments, the chiropractor will work to restore as much as possible the normal spinal bones alignment and mobility. Along with the adjustments, specific muscle re-balancing exercises should be performed to aid in the strengthening and stabilizing of the spine.

If you are experiencing neck or mid-back pain, headaches or shoulder pain, you may have forward head syndrome. Call us today at (314) 731-4201 to schedule an evaluation. There is no reason to allow the condition to continue to affect your life!