When I explain how to fix nerd neck, please keep in mind that I’m not calling any names here 🙂 Forward head posture just happens to be called ‘nerd neck’ too. And tech neck, or text neck, for that matter. The reason for that is obvious: all that texting on your phone and looking at your laptop makes you crane your neck forward. Eventually, forward head posture will become the new norm. In this post, I’ll share 7 habits that generate bodily tension and how to fix nerd neck by becoming more aware.
What is forward head posture, or nerd neck?
With forward head posture, your head is not balanced on top of your spine but instead is positioned an inch or more in front of your first neck vertebra. You can check if you have forward head posture as follows. Stand sideways in front of a mirror and check if your ears are in line with your body’s vertical midline. If your ears are more forward, and you detect an inward curvature from the upper back toward the head, that’s forward head posture or nerd neck.
Don’t feel ashamed about having forward head posture
One of the crucial factors in fixing nerd neck is being open about it. As long as you’re ashamed, you cannot discuss your intention to fix your forward head posture with the people around you. They can help you become aware of your movement patterns if only you let them provide feedback. I discuss my postural patterns with my partner, too.
Many people have forward head posture
Just so you know. These days, forward head posture is a widespread problem, with an estimated 66% of people in developed countries suffering from nerd neck. I myself have forward head posture, too, especially when I am stressed. I need to remind myself many times a day (every day!) to draw my head back and up. In the picture below, you’ll see the inward curve of forward head posture. This is the cinch in my neck just above the first neck vertebra in the illustration. And this is exactly what needs to be fixed. Scroll down to learn how to fix nerd neck.
What are the symptoms of forward head posture?
Neck and shoulder pain, through creating disbalance in your upper body, is the most common symptom of forward head posture. Especially the neck experiences a lot of strain. For every inch the head sits forward of the neck, your head’s weight increases by approximately 4,5 kgs (or 10 lbs.). And we aren’t anatomically designed to hold that much weight with the muscles attached to our cervical spine. As a result, you may experience a stiff neck, tense neck, or, adversely, weak neck muscles from developing a nerd neck.
Why you need to know how to fix nerd neck
If you have developed forward head posture, you might already be suffering from back, neck, and shoulder pain issues. If that’s not the case, it would be wise to walk the prevention path. Pain in those areas is not nice (to put it euphemistically) – I know that from experience. Besides experiencing pain or stiffness frequently, forward head posture can also affect the quality of your sleep.
You are not alone in having a poor posture
Do you know how many people suffer from poor posture? A lot. There are over 5 million monthly searches (!) on Pinterest, on the phrases ‘how to fix bad posture’, ‘fix posture exercises’, ‘diy posture corrector’, and over 1 million monthly searches on ‘forward head posture correction’. I kid you not.
Let’s beat the stigma of bad posture
If you are stunned, just know that I was, too. That’s because bad posture is not sexy. It’s not something you want to admit to. Unless you’re writing about it like I am because then, speaking from experience can actually be good. But, back to those monthly searches, all this indicates is that we are all sneakily researching how to correct our posture, while we are all suffering from the same. Crazy, right? Let’s start over. Start by becoming aware of your postural habits so that you can discuss them. Here we go.
How your habits trigger forward head posture
Most of the time we generate an excessive amount of bodily tension compared to the amount of tension we actually need. To hold a balanced posture, that is. By becoming aware of what those tension-increasing moments are, you can start to unravel any unconscious behavior patterns. This is the first step toward developing a composure that is balanced and relaxed.
Habits that increase bodily tension
Those tension-increasing moments are often habitual patterns. Which is good news, as through changing your habits you can get rid of that type of tension. Becoming aware of your individual habits is essential in discovering how to fix nerd neck. Below, I provide a few examples of common habits that trigger forward head posture. Some of those, you might have integrated too. Read on to find out which ones apply to you.
Being in a hurry is the most disturbing habit of all, as it negatively impacts all the habits below, too. And your mood, for what it’s worth. If you’re in a hurry, you will most probably propel your weight more forward to strive to get to your destination earlier. And yes, you might be doing this unconsciously. The more forward you lean, the less balanced you hold your body. And the more likely you are craning your neck. Take more time in between tasks and only walk with a ramrod posture. If you cannot walk straight up, take it as a signal that you’re simply walking too fast. While walking, you might even visualize a thread pulling the crown of your head toward the sky.
2. Holding your phone in your hand while walking
Another habit of the habitually busy (I’m not judging here 🙂 ). Holding your phone in your hand while walking creates unneeded bodily tension. First of all, that phone is quite fragile, so you’ll be holding on to it quite tightly, to prevent it from falling. The funny thing is, you’re probably holding on to it more intensely than is even needed. Which creates loads of muscular tension in your hand, arm, shoulder, and neck. Now I’m not saying you should hold on to it in a more nonchalant matter; just stick that phone in your pocket if you can 🙂
3. Cooking with precision
If you’re a member of the precision consortium (yup, count me in, too 🙂 ), then you’re probably creating bodily tension during all kinds of acts, like cooking. For instance, I will try to cut my veggies into tidy squares, craning my neck to have a better look at the result. For the record, I do this unconsciously. Next time you’re cutting produce or stirring in a pan, analyze how upright you are actually standing in that very moment. There might be room for improvement. Knowing how to fix nerd neck means becoming aware of those exact habitual movement patterns.
4. Carrying a shoulder bag
If you’ve known me for some time, and you’re on this paragraph, I guess you’ve started laughing. As I used to have quite the collection of handbags and shoulder bags assembled. Nowadays, I rarely use them anymore, as the bag’s weight puts a lot of strain on the shoulder joint. In case of neck or shoulder pain, this is exactly what you want to avoid. While carrying a shoulder bag, your body will automatically lift your shoulder the tiniest bit to prevent the bag from slipping off. Again, this often happens unconsciously. Moreover, one-sided bags create a bodily disbalance, so it’s better to opt for a backpack instead.
5. Feeling shy or ashamed
While being shy or ashamed mightn’t be habits; these traits are tremendously important to your posture, which is why I include them either way. Shy people tend to direct their eyes downward more often, avoiding eye-contact or even looking up. As a matter of fact, looking straight up might get you a comment or two on having an arrogant manner. Still, you shouldn’t be in pain because of what other people think or say. So, how to fix nerd neck if you are shy? Step-by-step, find the courage to look up more often and challenge yourself to make eye contact now and then. The more you practice, the less awkward it will become.
6. Texting continuously
Without paying attention to your posture while looking at your phone, you most probably will crane your neck forward. That makes sense, as the screen is so small that you need to make an effort to see what’s happening on there. Now, you could be holding your phone slightly higher, but that will increase the load (thus, tension) on your shoulders and arms, which is why you don’t automatically do so. Try looking on your phone less, which also helps your concentration. And if you do need to look on that tiny screen, do so with an awareness of your posture.
7. Sitting all day
This one might come across as a no brainer, but how often do you get up from your desk, only to feel very sore? Exactly. Timebox, people! Because, while you might intend to be aware of your posture once you start the day, this intention will fade away. The longer you’ll be in the same position, the less attention you’ll have for your posture. Try moving around every 20 minutes, and in between, even change your sitting position ever so often. After each change, direct awareness to how you’re holding your head, so that you can correct when needed (and really, timeboxing does help!).
Which of those habitual patterns apply to you?
Now that you have read a couple of examples of habitual patterns that create tension, take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself: how many of these habits apply to you? Proactively pay attention to your movement patterns in the next few days. Think: could any more habits trigger forward head posture in your case? What are they? How often and in which situations do these habits pop up?
How to fix nerd neck once you know your tension-increasing habits
Once you are aware of your habits, the most important thing is to STAY aware. Which means having continuous access to your accumulated knowledge. Write down your insights in a journal or use an app to take notes. The journaling app Day One is easy to work with. Simple but – award-winning – design, intuitive, and free (although premium features are available). Take multiple moments throughout the day to evaluate your habitual patterns and your progress. After each moment, write down what to pay more attention to.
On improving not just your habits, but also your posture
If that was you, sneakily researching ‘diy posture corrector’ (I know it was 😉 – it was me, too), stay tuned. I will be posting a full guide on navigating neck and shoulder pain very soon, including helpful diy posture corrector tricks that I use on a daily basis. Feel free to follow me on Instagram if you want to stay up to date on my new posts, as I haven’t built a subscription section yet. Now, back to the nerd neck (and how to fix it). Keep scrolling for intentions, stretches, and more how to fix nerd neck tricks.
How I changed my habits by setting intentions
If there are many habitual patterns that need changing, the process of altering those patterns might be overwhelming. For a long time, that the case for me too. My posture was so bad, and my neck was so tremendously tense that I thought I would never be able to change this. So why even matter? The one thing that helps me navigate big changes is setting intentions. One by one, for specific habits or focus areas. Changing step-by-step keeps it simple. And, even so important, this approach lets you acknowledge small milestones, too. This is a wonderful happiness booster J If you’d like, you can read more about setting intentions in my post Why set your intention: a change-invoking 101.
How to fix nerd neck with forward neck stretches
Moving around your neck and shoulders repeatedly throughout the day is key in improving your posture. A few simple forward neck stretches are:
- Circling your shoulders backward and forward.
- Moving your neck left to right, or up and down (but move mindfully).
- Moving your shoulders back and down, pulling your head back and up (tighten your abs while you do so).
- Arching your upper back as I do in the featured picture of this post (this is a yoga pose, called Upward dog, but you can easily do the same while standing, no yoga needed).
While doing any of those exercises, always keep your neck long and don’t collapse in your neck. As collapsing in your neck creates even more compression and tension in this area. It might seem like a detail, but it is actually essential to good neck health.
Checklist: how to fix nerd neck
- Don’t be ashamed of having forward head posture. Discuss your intention to improve your posture with the people around you.
- Let people in your close circle provide feedback on when your posture is bad so that you can correct it.
- It’s fine to set a few guidelines for feedback on your posture. Maybe you don’t want to be reminded every hour or want to be left alone on an off day.
- Become aware of your habits and log those insights so that you have continuous access to your postural focus points.
- Keep track of your habits daily. Use a journal or a journaling app.
- If you can, evaluate your progress throughout the day and adjust your focus when needed.
- If many patterns need changing, try to work step-by-step. Set an intention for one habit to focus on per week or month.
- Acknowledge every milestone so that you stay motivated and positive about your progress.
- Keep your body moving: stretch your neck, shoulders and upper back as often as possible.
- How to fix nerd neck in seven words: awareness, no shame, daily stretching, log progress.
Want to read more about how to fix nerd neck?
Backintelligence.com has a comprehensive guide on many topics, including forward head posture. In their article, How to fix forward head posture, you’ll find a quick test for forward head posture with a handy visual and deeper insights on the affected muscles of nerd neck. What’s more, the consequence of forward head posture and some handy guidelines on how to fix nerd neck, too.
More neck and shoulder pain relief tricks
If you are challenged in the neck and shoulder department like I am, you might want to read up on some more pain relief tricks. If you wake up feeling sore every so often, my post Shoulder pain after sleeping: 5 simple tricks might be beneficial to you. For more insights on how to challenge your movement patterns and increase your flexibility, hop on over to my post Easy ways to improve flexibility from head to toe.
Did you enjoy reading this post?
I sure hope you did 🙂 If you have any questions, recommendations, or experiences you want to share, I’d be more than happy to read your thoughts! You can leave your comment in the field below. Do you know someone who could benefit from learning how to fix nerd neck? Feel free to share this post (via the URL bar or any of the social share buttons) and get the positive energy flowing!