Upper Crossed Syndrome
When people think of physio’s they tend to think of posture as well – the two seem to go hand in hand, and correcting posture is all the general population believes physiotherapists do. Not so, but before I digress, there is a reason for that common misconception and that is because a LOT of injuries we see are due to poor biomechanics, which in the case of the upper body, can be described as poor posture. Let’s take Upper Crossed Syndrome, one of the most common ‘postural’ issues we see and is a large contributor to neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, mid back pain and low back pain. Now when you see that brief list of problems that can come about from ‘poor posture’ you can understand why physio's have the posture reputation that they do.
What is Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS)?
UCS is a typical muscular imbalance issue that comes about from spending time in positions that allow your head to poke forward (i.e sitting at a computer). The muscles at the front of your neck that are responsible for tucking your chin in get really weak and allow your head to move forward of your shoulders even more. As a result, the muscles at the back of your neck (suboccipitals, upper traps, levator scapulae) are all being pulled tighter as they are trying to work at a different angle. Along with this, the muscles at the front of your shoulders (pectorals) get tight from spending hours with your shoulders rolled forward (think typing/sitting at a desk) and the counteractive muscles that are used to pull your shoulders back and open (rhomboids/lower traps) get really weak.
What does this mean for you? You may end up experiencing one or all of the following from these imbalances:
Neck pain and tightness
Shoulder pain with activity
Mid back stiffness, pain and aches
Pins and needles down your arm and into your fingers
Low back pain
Rounded (kyphotic) upper back (getting stooped)
What can you do about it? UCS in theory is very simple to fix:
Decrease your forward chin poke by working on tucking the chin back (strengthening the deep neck flexors)
Improve mobility in the thoracic (mid-back) region
Open up the shoulders (strengthen the rhomboids/lower trapezius and stretch out the pecs)
Easy, right? Right-ish. In theory, yes. In practice, you are having to re-teach your entire body what normal is. Most often this posture hasn’t just happened over night but rather has built up over the years and so can take more than 1 week to change. Muscles take 6 weeks to begin to change so you need to be patient in the timeframe you give yourself to correct this problem. Prior to starting your postural re-training, you will very likely need to see your physio to help loosen up the areas that are excessively tight otherwise they’ll be the first muscles to kick in when you start to correct your posture. SO, let’s summarise:
See your physio to loosen up the tight areas and get rid of the acute pain that is bothering you the most.
Fix the underlying issue (poor posture) by following a clinical pilates program for minimum 6 weeks. (Alternatively, you can be given exercises to do at home on your own. If you go down this road, my advice is as follows: DO the exercises.)
Get onto a regular maintenance program. You’re only human, and even if you are being incredibly conscientious about your posture, odds are if you’re spending hours at a desk, your body is going to get tight. Make sure getting a monthly massage becomes part of your routine to prevent issues from building up again.
UCS is an incredibly common problem and one that can be treated well and easily in the scheme of things. The longer you leave it, the longer your growing list of ailments.
Think you may be suffering from UCS? Give us a call NOW on 9448 2994 to chat to one of our fabulous physios, or book in online here and get started on fixing your posture once and for all!