Your mother may have been right when she told you to stand up straight and pull your shoulders back. Poor posture is often the underling cause for pain in the neck and shoulders as well as headaches.
Although Mom was on to something, good posture is much more than simply pulling your shoulders back. Posture is the physical embodiment of tension and compression. The body is similar to a suspension bridge, the bones are the struts, the muscles and connective tissues are the cables. Good posture allows for balanced tension in the muscles and connective tissues along with proper compression of the joints. Bad posture creates additional compression and unequal tension.
Modern living puts a whole new demand on the body. The majority of people perform work at desks, countertops and tables. This causes the focal point to be below the horizon line of the neutral head position. The tendency is to shift your head to meet your focus. If you are working at a desk, countertop, or table, then you are consistently looking down. As simple as it sounds it creates a host of problems. By looking down for an extended period of time the head starts to shift forward and the neck straightens.
The average head weighs 12-15 pounds. As the head goes forward, the upper trapezius, levator scapulae and smaller neck extensor muscles begin to lengthen, but also tense to support the immense amount of weight. When you spend a length of time in this forward head position your posture changes, muscles in the back of your neck become over stretched and chronically contracted. The tension in the upper trapezius, levator scapulae and smaller neck extensor muscles can lead to trigger points, nerve compression and/or pain. The forward head position also flattens the cervical spine, which can create compression in the lower part of the neck at C5 and C6.
You can balance the effects of a forward head position by strengthening the neck extensors as well as stretching the upper trapezius and levator scapulae with three simple exercises.