Forward Head Posture (FHP) is known by many miscellaneous names like Nerd Neck, Text Neck, or Scholar Neck. All these unflattering names refer to a postural deformity that afflicts many people.
Those suffering from it try to figure out every possible way to stop the condition from progressing. Many consider it a lifestyle problem and think practicing some habits can reverse their condition.
One much-talked habit has been about using a pillow while sleeping. Some think sleeping without a pillow can ease their disease-related discomfort. But it probably won’t, and we’ll find out why.
Forward Head Posture: Symptoms & Causes
FHP is a condition where your head leans forward out of neutral alignment with the spine by an inch or more. The center of gravity is shifted and becomes disproportionate to the head’s weight. And that results in a discomforting habitual neck posture with an increased load on the shoulders and neck.
Symptoms of Forward Head Posture
The symptoms of FHP don’t show up early, but the long-term problem can show various signs like:
- Neck leaning forward and the head poking in front of the shoulders
- Kyphosis (a condition with excessively rounded shoulders)
- Muscle stiffness in the shoulders and neck
- Neck or shoulder pain with tension headache
- Poor posture and balance
- Sleeping disorders
- Breathing difficulties
- Chronic fatigue
Causes of FHP
Forward head posture or Nerd Neck is often caused by a bad lifestyle or some bad habits. It can also be caused by weakness or injuries in the concerned neck muscles. Some of the potential causes of FHP include:
- Sleeping with a too elevated head
- Carrying too much weight in the back frequently
- Maintaining poor posture in daily activities like using a cell phone, writing, sewing, etc
- Excessive driving with hunched back or shoulder
- Whiplash or other neck injuries
- Weak upper muscles or neck muscles
- Previous injuries in the cervical spine
- Bone degeneration or arthritis
FHP Leads to Some other Issues
FHP can lead to some major issues and could be a big concern if left untreated. Some of these issues include:
- Tension neck syndrome
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Muscle spasm
- Strain in the upper back muscles
- Long and weakened deep neck flexors
- Cervical spondylosis, also known as arthritis of the neck bone
- Bulging or Herniated Disc
Impacts of the Pillow on Forward Head Posture
Your sleeping style has a lasting effect on your body posture. It doesn’t include the sleeping position only but also the role of sleeping aids like pillows.
Pillows are considered sleeping aids that help maintain a neutral spine from the neck to the lower back. Most people find a pillow helpful for maintaining the right posture throughout the night to enjoy sleep.
Now coming to the point of whether a pillow affects FHP. There’s no clear evidence that a pillow alone causes or contributes to it. However, if you use a pillow incorrectly, it could surely worsen FHP symptoms.
Incorrect Use of Pillow
How do you incorrectly use the pillow while sleeping? You could be sleeping with mountains of pillows or a too elevated pillow. In this case, your head will be supported in a forward head posture throughout the night which can worsen the condition.
Why Sleeping Without a Pillow isn’t a Good Idea
In a study in MedicalNewsToday, health journalist Amanda Barrell talks about the risks of sleeping without a pillow. She says sleeping without a pillow can put pressure on the neck.
It can ruin the neutral position of the spine and lead to neck and back pain. Sleeping without a pillow also can’t improve forward head posture or other postural deformities.
People who sleep on their stomachs sometimes find it better to sleep without a pillow as they think it lifts the head too high to cause their back to arch.
But it’s not necessarily the case; even medical experts suggest that stomach sleepers use a thin pillow under the head rather than not using one.
Choose the Right Pillow for Forward Head Posture
According to National Sleep Foundation, choosing proper pillows is important for a person’s sleep and overall health. A pillow is supposed to keep the head and neck in line with the rest of the backbone.
Let’s see how different sleepers can choose the right pillow.
If you’re a side sleeper who doesn’t use a pillow, you’ll see your head and neck tend to bend down to the side due to the shoulder’s height, resulting in more deformity. So you need a pillow that supports your head well but isn’t too elevated and that also fills in the space between the head and the shoulders.
If you’re a back sleeper and don’t use a pillow, your back will stay bent backward throughout the night. It can worsen your FHP and lead to sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
You should choose a medium-firm pillow with a height you think is right for you. It should support the head and neck and keep them aligned to support the natural curve in the spine.
We’ve already suggested using a thin pillow for stomach sleepers instead of using no pillow.
Using the right pillow in the right way won’t cause or contribute to any deformity like FHP.
Factors to Consider for the Best FHP Pillows
You could well be a lucky sleeper to never experience neck or shoulder pain even with Forward Head Posture. But for that, you’ve to look beyond the regular pillows and turn to some special pillows for FHP sufferers like cervical pillows or orthopedic pillows.
While doing so, keep the below factors in mind:
- Orthopedic center hole for maximum head support
- Memory foam construction with breathable, hypoallergenic materials
- Medium firmness that can allow the sore neck muscles to rest
- Soft, skin-friendly, and flexible outer cover
Massage therapists say that you can reverse forward head posture with simple exercises and some prescribed stretching. But at the same time, you should be careful about your lifestyle, including sleep hygiene, proper sleep position, and the proper use of sleep aids like pillows.
We’ve discussed why sleeping without a pillow isn’t a good idea and how you can live better with the right pillow and by using it in the right manner. So if you’ve ever wondered about sleeping without a pillow in FHP, you must give it a second thought.
Besides, you should also practice good postures like being upright in the seated position or while standing and avoiding doing things that can worsen the condition.
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