Upper Crossed Syndrome – A common postural problem

by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

by Paula Allia PT, DHSc, MTC, OCS

Posture is something that is observed from the head down to your toes. Many people think it is merely sticking your chest out and holding your head up but there is more.

Proper posture should be easy as we are stacked over our own base of support. Unfortunately, prolonged habitual deviations from the upright lead to posture being a lot of work. In today’s world we are challenged even more than in our past. The everyday habits of yesteryear are still present but now on top of all that, smartphones, iPads, tablets, Kindles and laptops are being used like never before. Each device is held low and necks and posture are adjusted accordingly to visualize the screens. People are constantly texting, typing and peering over books. Very rarely do I ever see someone holding or securing the object up to eye level to not strain the neck.

Over time, these devices will affect the kinematic chain from the head, neck and shoulder complex down through the low back.

It is typical that one body part follows the other. The head and neck go forward and the shoulders get rounded. If a lot of time is spent in these positions daily, some muscles will get tight and others will overstretch. Day after day, year after year, muscular imbalances can occur and joints as well as blood flow
in certain areas can be compromised.

postureUpper Crossed syndrome was first discussed by Vladamir Janda (physician and physiotherapist) and has been discussed since the 1970s yet today with all of our electronic devices in combination with daily habits this syndrome is more prevalent. Typically, the upper trapezius muscle, the levator scapula, and pectoral muscle get tight while the deep neck flexors, lower trap and rhomboids get weak. This pattern if not corrected, will indeed lead to future problems that can include headaches, neck pain, and
rotator cuff problems.

In normal development the body develops a relationship between the central nervous system and the neuromuscular motor system. Movement patterns are developed that are facilitated by an intimate sensorimotor system in the body. As we move or position the body this sensorimotor system stimulates the body to facilitate certain muscles while inhibiting others. However, with the habits and prolonged postures that are used today, this system becomes compromised. The muscles that are habitually
shortened become tight while the muscles that are stretched become weakened. When not addressed these faulty postures over time will lead to dysfunctions that have potential to even alter your lifestyle do to pain and limitations.

So how does one help to reconnect to their normal sensorimotor pattern? First, the pattern that one has must be identified. It is not uncommon that people stretch out the wrong muscles. It is pertinent to free tight muscles and the fascia around them in specific way. If the proper tissue is stretched, it is possible that the body’s neuromuscular system will reconnect and stimulate the right muscles. If the tightness and imbalances have been present for some time, once the tight muscles are stretched, the opposite
muscles need specific stimulation to facilitate and strengthen. It cannot be assumed that the proper muscle will work without the right stimulation. Once the proper triggers to the body are integrally tied, the sensorimotor system can rebalance.

The body is an amazing machine! If given the right stimulus it can flourish. When given mixed signals over and over, inappropriate muscle patterns can take over. The good news is that if caught early enough, proper balancing of specific muscles can occur. The bad news is….you have to make the choice to address these issues. Over time if not corrected, the actual joints can breakdown and chronic pain can occur. Do yourself a favor and get checked today to see what you can do for your body’s well being.
For further information please call Paula at Fitness Together in downtown Naples 239.263.9348.

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