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Exercises To Correct Forward Head and Shoulder Posture

January 09 2010

A forward head or shoulder posture is the most common posture seen among people. So what causes it, what are the benifts of correcting it, and how to correct it.

Why people have a forward head posture?


Muscle Imbalance: Based on some clinical evidence, tight chest muscles and weak back muscles may lead to a forward head posture. This muscle imbalance could be due to:

  • Working Posture: A good example is working on the computer or at your desk with a slouched posture.
  • Activities: Repetitive use of the chest muscles more than back muscles, like swimming, too much pushing exercises than pulling exercises in the gym.

Disease: Osteoarthritis and certain congenital diseases can cause structural deformities in your spine which can really screw up your spine.

What are the benefits of correcting a forward head posture?

The major reasons claimed for correcting a forward head posture are:

Prevent/Lower Pain: Correcting a forward head posture may lower the likelihood of shoulder impingement and prevent shoulder pain. It may also lower pain in people with shoulder problems.

Range of motion: By improving a forward head posture, you may increase the range of motion in your shoulder.

Aesthetics: Basically, you will look good with a better posture and this is the best reason in my book to fix posture. 

There is very little evidence, almost none, to lowering/preventing shoulder pain by fixing a forward head posture.

What are the exercises to correct forward head posture?

Forward head posture due to muscle imbalances can be corrected by

  • Stretching the tight chest muscles
  • Strengthening the weak back muscles.

Stretching Exercises

The single arm wall stretch was found to be the most effective pectoralis minor stretch in a study comparing different pectoralis minor stretches . Do this for 2 sets for 30sec 3 times/week

pectoralis minor stretch for correcting posture

Strengthening Exercises

Below are the strengthening exercises. Do 2-3 sets each 10-15 reps 3 times/week.

For Scapula retractors
scapular retractor exercise to correct forward head posture

For Lower trapezius
exercise for lower trapezius to correct forward head posture

For external rotators
exercise for external rotators to correct forward head posture

You can use a cable machine if you don’t have thera bands.

I picked the above stretches & exercises because these were the exact exercises used in the study to change posture. And it is the only study which ever showed a change in posture with exercise.

Reference 1

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Jim | Thu January 14, 2010  

Anoop, I am sorry to post this here so please feel free to erase, but I can not log in and just keep getting shuttled to the home page. This has been the case for a few weeks so I tried registering again and the same thing. Also, nothing happens when I hit the “contact” button.
I hope this works,

anoop | Fri January 15, 2010  

Thanks a lot Jim for letting me know. It’s fixed.I did some redirect and it got screwed up.

And what does it show when you hit the contact button?

Cory | Thu April 29, 2010  

I’m curious if you know of any studies to show an improvement with just stretching done to try to improve posture &/or pain?

Anoop | Thu April 29, 2010  

Hi Cory,

Nope. I haven’t come across any study which shows a change in posture with just stretching.

You might find a few studies which might show stretching lowers pain.There are a lot of things which can reduce pain through the placebo effect ( the patient expectations and conditioning effect). i haven’t come across any. Pain studies need a really well design control group to make sure it is not a placebo effect.

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