Using Head Weights for Posture Correction
People are endlessly creative and when there is a need, you can guarantee that someone is working on a solution. Using head weights for posture correction is a case in point.
Most people will have a mental image of young ladies in Victorian times being encouraged to stand up straight aided by the placement of a book on their heads. Well, the posture correction product we are about to discuss works on this exact principle. (Jump straight to our review of the Posture Crown)
What is Head Weighting?
In simple terms, head weighting involves putting a small weight on your head that teaches you to maintain a more balanced, upright posture. The theory behind this posture correction technique is that you can only keep the head weight in place by maintaining an upright posture – you slouch, it slips off.
The actual weight itself is also part of the procedure. By moving into a strong posture, then placing a weight on your head, you train your body to recognise the position of your head relative to other body parts, such as your neck and shoulders. Physical therapists call this proprioception.
This is definitely a term that most people know nothing about, but in the world of physical therapy, it is a mainstream concept. If we apply this term to posture correction, it certainly makes sense – to be able to know subconsciously where your head is in relation to the rest of your spine is postural gold!
A good example of how some people have developed a very strong sense of proprioception can be seen in athletes such as gymnasts. When a skilled gymnast launches themselves into a complicated series of rotations, their body has been trained to know exactly where their hands, legs, torso, etc are in relation to each other. Other examples include dancers, horse riders – pretty much any type of activity that involves co-ordinated movement. Maintaining a strong, healthy posture is one such activity!
There is actually quite a bit of mainstream science behind the idea of using a weight on a person’s head to correct some aspects of their posture. One study that concludes that there are definite benefits to head weighting is Improvement of Cervical Lordosis and Reduction of Forward Head Posture with Anterior Head Weighting and Proprioceptive Balancing Protocols (ref: Saunders, Woggon, Cohen, Robinson in J Vertebral Subluxation Res01/2003; 4.) You can read the study here if you like research reports.
Forward Head Posture
While anterior (frontal) head weighting is claimed to help improve overall posture, the specific problem targeted is the commonly seen forward head posture (sometimes called FHP). We have covered this topic before and the links at the end of this post will take you to this material if you are interested.
Simply put, if you hold your head forward of its natural balance point, you have FHP. This is a very common postural weakness in the western world largely due to our sitting based lifestyles. In fact, it is becoming so common that people without it are the exception! Why does this matter? Well, the further forward your head sits in relation to your shoulders, the more weight and stress you put on your spine. It is not just your neck either. The whole body is effected. Your shoulders roll forward, your chest slumps inward, and your lower back looses its natural curvature – not good!
Description of a Posture Crown
The Posture Crown is one of a handful of commercially available head weights for posture correction. The device is a soft material “bag” approximately 6″ (15cm)in diameter and 1 1/2 ” (3cm) thick. It weighs 1 1/2 pounds. The material it is made from is a mixture of nylon and neoprene and feels well made with good quality construction evident. You are able to choose either a red, or green, cover material.
Instructions for Users
The product was not shipped with user instructions, but the manufacturer’s website contains simple, but clear advice.
1. Users are instructed to relax and basically sit up straight before putting the Posture Crown on their head. They are encouraged to pay attention in the first few minutes so that the crown doesn’t slip off. This conscious balancing and alignment is part of the relearning process.
2. Initially, wear the Posture Crown for 5-10 minutes per day. You should notice improvement after 3 – 4 weeks (PostureSorted’s opinion).
3. At this point, use the Posture Crown once per week as a reminder of the correct posture.
Note: Once someone purchases the product, they can choose to receive motivational emails once per week for a month. These emails also include tips for using the Posture Crown. A useful addition.
Our tester was surprised at how easy it was to balance the Posture Crown on their head. (This appears largely because the product is soft, and “moulds” to the wearer’s head.)
After the first 5 minute session, they noted that it had taken a concentrated effort to hold their head in a position that made it comfortable to use the device. They also commented that 5 minutes was plenty of time for the first use as it felt “heavy”.
After Day 2 of our three week test programme, they reported that their neck and upper back felt a little sore and tense. We assessed this as a natural part of retraining body alignment and encouraged them to persevere.
By Day 4 this tension seemed to have passed and they also reported that their head felt “more stable, stronger”.
Day 7 was marked with a pain in their left scalene muscle (these muscles stabilise the head/neck). We observed them using the Posture Crown and immediately noted that they were tensing one shoulder up and slightly tilting their head to this side. After some stretching, and a reset of their head alignment we left with instructions to stop using the device if the pain persisted.
The next day they reported that it was much more comfortable to use. They did, however, continue to do some basic scalene stretches and practised their head alignment in the mirror. (Link to a simple scalene stretch.)
Day 14 marked two thirds through our trial and our tester was now comfortable using the Posture Crown. We asked them to continue and make their final observations at Day 21.
Did it work?
In a word, yes. Our tester ended the trial with a stronger head posture than when they started (our assessment). They reported feeling that they were “sitting straighter” and that their neck felt less tense than usual. (Note: we chose our tester because their office job involves a lot of sitting and they were routinely experiencing neck and shoulder pain.) They also reported that people had complimented them, saying that they were “looking good” and “nice posture”.
Limitations of our trial
We used one tester for 3 weeks – this does not constitute a scientific study! However, that said, there were enough positive outcomes for our tester to suggest that head weights for posture may work for some people – particularly if they suffer from an overly forward head posture.
A couple of cautions
If you pop on the Posture Crown at work, expect to have a lot of comments coming your way! There is no way to wear one without looking a little ridiculous. This is definitely a posture corrector that is better suited to use at home.
We recommend having someone observe you assuming a strong head posture when first using the Posture Crown. They should be able to spot misalignment. Remember, it is highly likely that a new user has poor head posture and may not be assuming the position that they think they are. There is no point in using a weight unless it reinforces a stronger position. You could also use a mirror or cellphone picture to check for yourself.
And lastly, if you neck/upper spine is injured, or very painful, you should not put more weight on your head. You need to see a health professional as soon as possible. (Note: The Posture Crown team are considering releasing a lighter model as an option.)