Godzilla Neck vs. Kong Butt: Fixing MONSTER Posture Problems
Forward Head Posture vs. Anterior Pelvic Tilt!
My immediate reaction upon seeing the trailer for the new Godzilla vs. Kong movie coming out March 25 was, “the climax of this movie better have Kong and Godzilla breaking out foam rollers and stretching.”
Unintentionally reminding us all of how terrible our posture’s been while working and studying from home the past year, the special effects animators for Hollywood’s latest blockbuster chose to design King Kong with a banging duck-butt anterior pelvic tilt and Godzilla with a hasn’t-looked-up-from-his-iPhone-since-lockdown-started forward head posture.
Now that many people have been working from home for a full year (yep, it’s been that long), we’re starting to see the damage it’s causing, and it isn’t pretty. What people thought would be temporary situation – perhaps two weeks propped up on the sofa with their laptop, or a month hunched over the kitchen table – has quickly turned into a more long-term arrangement.
And it’s not ending anytime soon. Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 30% of the worldwide workforce will remain working from home after 2021, so it’s probably time we start paying a little more attention to our posture.
‘Pandemic Posture’ is a real problem
We were two months into the pandemic when a 10-minute video went viral on my Facebook feed. “This is life-changing!” one person commented. “Wow, I needed this today,” someone else typed.
What was so captivating that everyone dropped everything to watch it ASAP? Kanye West playing with a litter of puppies? A new TikTok dance phenomenon? Nope, it was a neck and shoulder stretch video on YouTube. Working from couches, beds, and at-home desks had left virtually everyone in pain — and this was at the beginning of COVID-19.
Study after study is showing that working from spaces which aren’t designed for a full day’s work (and make it difficult to maintain a good upright posture) can directly cause long-term problems in the neck, back, shoulders, and even TMJ joints. It doesn’t end there – the frequency at which people are suffering from cervicogenic tension headaches (headaches caused by strain in the muscles of the neck) has more than doubled over the past year.
In July, researchers from the job discovery platform DirectApply created an avatar called ‘Susan’ to show what the remote workers of the future could look like – and it’s not a pretty sight. As a result of long-term working from home, Susan has hunched shoulders, purple bags under her eyes as a result of digital eyestrain and a bad case of butt-and-gut syndrome.
Of course, Susan and her heart-print pajama pants are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but this estimate of the ‘average future desk worker’ may be closer than we think. A recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research found home workers are spending 49 minutes longer in front of a screen each day, four extra hours per week, than when they were in the office.
The 2 biggest postural problems and how to fix them
At Ascent Chiropractic, we’ve seen a massive increase in patients seeking help for postural issues since the move to working from home was first announced – and 92% of chiropractors across the country are saying the same, based on a survey by the American Chiropractic Association. So here are the two biggest postural problems we see at our office, and some tips that the King of the Monsters might want to check out on how to fix them.
Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional to get a medical diagnosis and advice on a treatment plan for your particular condition before beginning any self-treatment described here.
Problem #1: Godzilla Neck (Forward Head Posture)
Be honest: there’s a pretty good chance you’re reading this article from your iPhone, with your neck jutting your head down toward the screen, and your shoulders and upper back slumped forward. This is called forward head posture – aka ‘text neck’ or ‘computer guy posture’ – and when you spend enough time doing it, this position becomes your body’s default posture.
A huge number of patients I see at Ascent Chiropractic suffer from some degree of forward head posture – it’s an epidemic.
This is especially common for people who are used to having a whole work station but now are just using a laptop at home. Add to this that the average American spends approximately five hours every day looking down at their phone — and that can lead to some Godzilla-size problems.
How to know if you have forward head posture?
There’s a simple test to check if ‘Godzilla Neck’ is affecting you.
1. Stand with your back towards a wall with your heels positioned shoulder width apart.
2. Press your buttocks against the wall and ensure that your shoulder blades are in contact with the wall.
3. Now, check your head position – is the back of your head touching the wall? If it’s not, you have forward head posture.
So what’s the problem with forward head posture?
A lot, and it’s relatively complicated.
A recent article from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science breaks down what happens to the body in individuals with forward head posture:
1. The muscles in the mid and lower back become weak, while the muscles in the neck, chest and shoulders get tight – a muscle imbalance known as upper cross syndrome.
2. The center of gravity of your head shifts forward (anteriorly), which increases the load on your neck – for every inch of forward movement, there is an extra 10 pounds of weight placed on your neck! This can consequently lead to musculoskeletal, neural, and vascular system dysfunction.
3. The changes that occur with forward head posture can lead to persistent and abnormal pressure in the muscles, tissues, and nerves of both the neck and shoulders, which can lead to rounding of back and shoulders (thoracic hyperkyphosis) and herniated discs in an effort to compensate, which results in a higher load being placed on the back and shoulder muscles.
4. All of these biomechanical changes eventually culminate in something called ‘tension neck syndrome’ – basically, a constant tension headache/neckache.
Of course, totally ditching our devices isn’t really a realistic option. Instead, we’ll focus on fixing muscle imbalances and adapting better postural habits to prevent the long-term problems caused by forward head posture.
Unfortunately, there’s no one perfect workplace solution that can prevent the problem of forward head posture, but how you position your computer can go a long way. One easy fix is positioning your computer monitor a couple inches higher than your eye-line by propping it up with a small stack of books or a monitor riser. If you’re using a laptop, get an external keyboard and mouse so you can move the screen to eye level without having to reach to type.
Here’s our Work From Home Survival Guide with more tips on optimizing your workspace.
Gentle neck and shoulder stretches (like in that Yoga By Adrienne video everyone on Facebook loved) that reverse the effects of being hunched forward can also make a big difference. Of course, they won’t totally undo eight hours a day of poor posture, but they can definitely help.
To truly correct ‘Godzilla Neck’ we’re going focus on strengthening your deep neck flexors along with your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and posterior deltoids to balance out the front and back of your body, pulling your shoulders and neck back and reversing hunched posture. We’ll also hit some stretches and mobility work you can do to release and lengthen muscles that are pulling the shoulders in.
1. Deep Cervical Flexor Strengthening
Start in s supine position. Tuck the chin to the chest.
Lift your head off the floor. Bring your chin as close to the chest as possible. Concentrate on using the muscles in the front of the neck. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat for sets of 10 reps.
2. Trap Foam Roll Myofascial Release
Begin seated on floor. Lie back placing foam roll across upper back, targeting the trapezius muscles. Cross arms in front placing hands on shoulders.
Lift hips off floor. Slowly massage upper back, rolling up and down as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, then continue.
3. Head Retraction
Begin seated, or standing, looking forward with shoulders back with good neutral posture.
Activate core muscles. Attempt to draw head directly backwards. Maintain level head position. Do not tilt head. Hold for two seconds. Return to start position and repeat for sets of 10 reps.
4. Wall Angels
Begin standing with shoulder blades flat against wall. Place arms against wall with elbows below shoulder level, bent to 90º with palms facing forward.
While attempting to maintain forearm contact with wall, slide arms upward, squeezing shoulder blades together. Once forearm can longer maintain contact with wall, slowly return to start position. Repeat for sets of 10 reps.
5. Band Lat Pulldowns
Begin in the tall kneeling position with arms extended in front of you above shoulder level, grasping a resistance band in each hand.
Activate core. While maintaining straight spine, pull elbows back just below shoulder level squeezing shoulder blades together. Slowly return to start position. Do not allow shoulders to round forward excessively. Repeat for sets of 10 reps.
6. Band Rows
Begin standing in good posture with shoulders back. Anchor resistance band around door handle, grasping each end with arms slightly extended.
Activate core muscles. Pull elbows back just past body with a rowing motion. Simultaneously squeeze the shoulder blades and contract mid-back muscles. Return to start position. Do not round shoulders forward. Repeat for sets of 10 reps.
Problem #2: Kong Butt (Anterior Pelvic Tilt)
One of the worst consequences of working from home the past year is that people are sitting a lot more and their activity levels have plummeted – and that’s taking a major toll on their pelvic alignment. If you work in an office, there’s at least a little movement built into your day. You’re getting up to talk to colleagues or go to meetings, might leave mid-day to pick up some lunch, and you walk from your parking spot or the subway stop into the building. Besides losing this built-in daily activity during the pandemic, people aren’t getting traditional exercise in, either, because they haven’t felt safe going to the gym or to fitness classes.
The bottom line is that we’re all spending more time on our butts than we used to — and that’s causing major postural problems. Specifically, it’s causing some serious cases of anterior pelvic tilt (in which your “hip” bones tip forward and your tailbone tilts up and back).
Short, stiff hip flexors are the central feature of anterior pelvic tilt. They pull your pelvis forward, which lengthens and weakens your hamstrings and glutes.
The same thing happens in your lower back. When the muscles in your lower back are tight and overactive, they exaggerate the lumbar curve. That, in turn, weakens and stretches out your abdominal muscles, resulting in a stomach bulge that nobody wants.
This muscle imbalance is known as lower cross syndrome.
In this case, there’s a fairly obvious way to prevent this postural problem: Find ways to work movement and standing into your day so you aren’t sitting so much. If you have a high counter (like in the kitchen) bring your laptop there for part of the day so you can stand and work. And of course, exercising during your day – even if it’s just taking an “exercise snack” – can make a huge difference.
How to know if you have anterior pelvic tilt?
Anterior pelvic tilt, also known as “butt and gut syndrome“, is easy enough to recognize. There are two telltale signs:
1. An exaggerated lumbar curve (“swayback”)
2. A bulging abdomen, even if you have low body fat
When it’s most pronounced, your pants waistline will sit diagonal to the floor, with the front angled downward, instead of horizontal.
There’s another simple test you can do to help you determine if you’ve got anterior pelvic tilt – it’s called Thomas’ test. Simply lie face-up on a table or bed with your legs hanging off the end, bent at the knee. Pull one knee towards the chest. If the resting leg raises up, you’re likely dealing with some degree of anterior pelvic tilt.
It’s important to note that the pelvis has a natural forward tilt of about 15-24 degrees, which is considered normal.
So what’s the problem with anterior pelvic tilt?
Anterior pelvic tilt can lead to lower back pain and tightness, sacroiliac and hip problems, knee injuries and herniated discs. It can even cause problems like spinal stenosis and idiopathic scoliosis. The spine, like a skyscraper, requires a good base to start from, and if that’s missing everything above it will be negatively affected.
Similar to Godzilla Neck, we’re going to correct Kong Butt by doing two things:
Strengthening the muscles that are weakened: The abs (rectus abdominus, transverses abdominus, internal obliques, and external obliques), as well as the glutes (maximus, medius, and minimus).
Stretching the muscles that are tight and overactive: The hip flexors (iliacus, psoas, and rectus femoris) and erector spinae muscle group.
1. Hip Flexor Foam Roll Myofascial Release
Begin lying face down on a foam roller, with the roller under your hips and elbows bent. Your forearms should be supporting your upper body.
Pull body forward with arms, slowly moving foam roller throughout thighs, as tolerated, for a duration of 1 to 2 minutes. Maintain consistent pressure with foam roll. If a painful area is found, stop rolling and REST on the area for 10 seconds as tolerated, then continue.
2. McGill Curl Up
Begin lying on your back with one knee bent. Place both hands underneath low back with palms down.
Lift shoulders off floor, trying to maintain a neutral spine position without rounding low back. Do not allow head to move forward of shoulders during movement. Elbows can remain in contact with floor during movement. Pause momentarily. Return to start position. Repeat for sets of 10 reps.
3. Stir the Pot
Begin kneeling in front of stability ball. Rest elbows on ball.
Straighten legs into a plank position. Keeping spine straight, roll elbows in a circular motion on the ball. Perform this movement in 10 second intervals resting 3 seconds in between reps.
4. Hip Bridge
Begin lying on floor, facing up. Bend knees so feet are firmly on floor with arms extended to sides.
Activate core muscles. Lift hips off floor to attain a bridge position with knees, hips, and shoulders in alignment. Slowly return to start position. Repeat for sets of 10 reps.
Initially, you may develop some cramping in the back of your thigh. A simple hamstring stretch, before and after, can prevent this from occurring.
5. Modified Side Plank
Begin on your side with knees bent. Place support forearm directly under shoulder.
Activate core muscles. Lift hips off floor and attain a straight, rigid position from thighs through your upper body. Once in this position, there should be no movement. Maintain core contraction. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat for sets of 10 reps, and do the same on the opposite side.
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
These are great starts to correcting Godzilla Neck and Kong Butt on your own, but studies have shown that the most reliable way to stabilize your spine and pelvis long-term is through a combination of correcting muscle imbalances and fixing the underlying joint movement and positioning with chiropractic treatment.
Correcting a musculoskeletal problem is a two-part process: returning proper motion to a joint and correcting muscle imbalances. If you’re only addressing joint motion (chiropractic adjustments), but ignoring the muscles that control and support that joint with specific active rehab exercises, you’ll never get long-term correction and be dependent on getting adjusted multiple times per week forever.
Conversely, if you’re only doing muscle rehab – stretching muscles that are tight/shortened and strengthening the muscles that are weak/lengthened – without actually correcting the joint dysfunction that’s causing problems, you’ll be stuck with low-level chronic inflammation forever because the joint still isn’t working correctly.
At Ascent Chiropractic, we make it a point to address both.
Discover the difference personalized, comprehensive care at Ascent Chiropractic makes. Instead of just fixing your pain, let’s fix you. To make an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic, call 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment with our online scheduling app.