Background: Postural deviations such as forward head posture (FHP) are associated with adverse health effects. The causes of these deviations are poorly understood. We hypothesized that anticipating target-directed movement could cause the head to get "ahead of" the body, interfering with optimal head/neck posture, and that the effect may be exacerbated by task difficulty and/or poor inhibitory control.
Method: We assessed posture in 45 healthy young adults standing quietly and when they anticipated walking to place a tray: in a simple condition and in conditions requiring that they bend low or balance an object on the tray. We defined FHP as neck angle relative to torso; we also measured head angle relative to neck and total neck length. We assessed inhibitory control using a Go/No-Go task, Stroop task, and Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).
Results: FHP increased when participants anticipated movement, particularly for more difficult movements. Worse Stroop performance and lower MAAS scores correlated with higher FHP. False alarms on the Go/No-Go task correlated with a more extended head relative to the neck and with shortening of the neck when anticipating movement.
Conclusions: Maintaining neutral posture may require inhibition of an impulse to put the head forward of the body when anticipating target-directed movement.
Keywords: Ergonomics; Forward head posture; Inhibitory control; Mindfulness; Neck pain; Neutral posture; Postural alignment.
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