When it comes to firefighter gear, your helmet is essential.
Of all your firefighter gear, your helmet is with you during nearly every major emergency. Along with protecting your head, your helmet has an elongated brim that sheds scolding water and embers from falling down your coat. These are characteristics of a good helmet. Would you wear one that didn’t
have this? Of course not! But is your helmet bad? Does it protect you as it suppose to? Now, is your head position bad? Is it protecting you? Your head is intended to align with the rest of your spine by positioning your ears over your shoulders which then go over your hips. However, this healthy alignment is not as common as it should be. The world you live in encourages a forward head position. The awesome technology you use, phone, computer, and television, or even your vehicle as you look through your windshield, encourages you to be in a forward head position. This perpetual position contributors to upper crossed syndrome, a postural distortion that leads to poor movements and eventually injuries.
Thankfully, you don’t have to accept this! You can correct your head position. You can exchange a bad helmet for a great one.
What causes this forward head position?
A forward head position indicates a bad helmet and can be seen in a static postural assessment and movement assessment. In a static assessment, you are standing as comfortably as possible. If you helmet is bad, you will display a forward head position where your ears will extend beyond your shoulders. A bad helmet can also be seen during a push or pull movement assessment where you are pushing or pulling at a steady pace and your neck extends your forward head position as you exert force. These are all signs of muscle imbalances or muscles that are working too hard while others are working too little. Below is a list of those muscles.
Probable muscles working too hard
- Upper Traps
- Stenocleidomastoid (side of neck)
- Levator Scapular (back of neck)
Probable muscles working too little
- Deep Cervical Flexors (front of neck)
How Can I Get A Great Helmet?
To fix this, you must relax the muscles working too hard and strengthen the ones working to little. You start by using Myofascial Release using a softball, lacrosse ball or a tennis ball depending on how much pressure you want to apply to the muscles. Use these items to massage your upper traps by rolling a ball laterally from your ear to the end of your shoulders. As you are rolling, find the areas that are particularly tension and hold the ball on that area for an extended period of time. Don’t have a ball? You can use your fingers to apply pressure to the muscle fibers in that area. What will happen, is the muscle fibers will begin to relax allowing them to move more freely. Be sure to do this on both sides of your upper traps.
Next, you want to lengthen your upper traps restoring them to their proper length. Take you left arm and put it behind your lower back. Drop your left shoulder down as much as you are able. Place your right hand over your head holding so that your fingers are near your left ear. Drop your right ear to your right shoulder using your right hand to encourage it come closer to your shoulder. You will feel a stretch in you left upper trap and neck. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds begin sure to breath throughout the stretch. Do the same thing on the other side.
Lastly, you want to get your deep cervical flexors to start working. Place two fingers of one hand on your chin. Pull your head back into the proper position using your fingers to gently push encouraging a deeper pull in these weaker muscles. You will feel tension in the back of your neck as you strengthen your cervical extensors. Hold this isometric position for 10 seconds with as much tension as possible then pause for 5 seconds. Repeat this process 3 times.
Is that it?
Yep that’s it! A very easy to follow method to preventing injury.
You understand how important your helmet is. Would you keep a bad helmet? No! You would get a better one. Would you keep a forward head position that could lead to injury? That’s up to you now. By using the steps above that take less than 5 minutes you’ll be exchanging your bad helmet for a GREAT HELMET!