Alignment of the head and neck with Jemina Cassis Hart, MPT

Being a photographer means long hours of standing, walking, rushing to shoots and holding static postures while carrying heavy equipment.  Being a photographer also requires you to sit in front of a computer editing your work for long hours. Unfortunately, photographers cannot always be like the character played by Sean Penn in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Super zen and constantly shooting in exotic locations… so you might need a little help from time to time. On the other hand, I imagine the payoff of capturing the image you seek from behind the lens can be quite wonderful and satisfying!

As a former dancer /artist, I applaud your willingness to express yourselves through imacanstockphoto16142653ges and your ability to capture light and inspire humanity. As a physical therapist with experience working with professionals in the performing arts, I believe it is crucial for photographers to be able to rely on correct postural alignment and deep abdominal as well as limb strength in order to avoid overuse injuries.

This particular article will focus on head and neck posture and strength. Let’s look at proper anatomical neck and shoulder posture.  In standing and sitting, the head should sit over the thorax with the chin horizontal or parallel with the ground, the earlobe should sit on top of the clavicle or collar bone, and the shoulder blades should lie in a plane about 30 degrees in front of the body on what is called the plane of the scapula.


The most common postural fault found in our sedentary society is the forward head posture.  Picture Alan Alda canstockphoto16142648in latter episodes of MASH! Or picture yourself sitting in front of the computer or after shooting for a long time … This posture affects the upper neck at its attachment to the head and the lower neck as it attaches to the thorax. This posture is the main cause of headache and neck pain, it places stress on postural muscles and lowers breathing capacity. In extreme or chronic cases, this posture can cause decreased blood supply to the brain as well as dizziness and loss of consciousness. The posture of the head and neck is intimately connected with the shoulder and the pelvis, the forward head posture worsens in sitting because the pelvis tends to tuck under and the shoulders roll forward, thus pulling the head and neck out of alignment.


The following is a simple gentle exercise that will encourage better head and neck alignment. I will share more exercises later in the week.

Ok, take a deep breath! Really take a deep breath and watch what happens to your sternum or breast bone. It lifts! Alas this is your first exercise!

FIRST EXERCISE: Sitting or standing with equal weight distributed between right and left legs, take a deep, slow breath and feel your sternum rise then breathe out slowly. Repeat a few times until you understand what I am talking about. Next try taking a deep breath, and hold your sternum up as you breathe out. This exercise will allow your whole upper body to assume a more anatomically correct posture and will decrease stress on neck muscles as well as increase oxygen levels! Do not arch your back, keep abdominals lightly contracting and try to stack your spine as if your vertebrae were blocks stacked on top of each other. Repeat this exercise as many times as you’d like. About 10-15 repetitions should suffice.

Try doing this simple exercise every couple of hours while sitting or shooting. Let us know how you feel after trying this exercise all week.

silhouette image: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / excess
skeleton images: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / eraxian

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