Technology is awesome! It has been one of the largest driving forces behind the advancement of the human race. But with the good also comes the bad. Technology is now integrated into every minute of our day. Whether it be working on the computer at work, watching tv on the couch at home, or answering phone calls or text messages on your cell phone.
Due to this integration most of us spend a lot our time during the day in a seated position staring at a screen. Even if you are someone who regularly exercises on a daily basis you will still experience an imbalance between the amount of time you spend seated and staring and the amount of time you spend upright and moving.
This disproportionate amount of time spent seated leads to a specific postural dysfunction described by Janda as the Upper Crossed Syndrome.
Upper Crossed Syndrome is marked by excessive rounding of the thoracic spine (upper back), protracted (pulled apart) shoulder blades, forward head posture, and increased lordosis of the cervical spine (neck).
These characteristics are produced by imbalances between anterior and posterior muscles. On the posterior side of things tightness is experienced in superior muscle groups, including suboccipitals, upper trapezius, and levator scapula, and in the inferior muscle groups, including the rhomboids and lower trapezius, weakness is experienced. On the anterior side of things tightness is experienced in inferior muscle groups, including the pectorals, and in the superior muscle groups, including the deep and superficial neck flexors, weakness is experienced.
The weakness and tightness in each muscle group is caused by prolonged exposure to postures, such as sitting and staring at a computer, that cause shortening of some muscles, which produces tightness, and lengthening of others, which produces weakness due to the muscles in ability to produce tension at a given length.
In addition to this posture not being aesthetically pleasing it also creates movement dysfunctions in the gleno-humeral joint and the cervicothoracic junction. You will also experience difficulties in scapular stability and mobility. These dysfunctions will result in limited range of motion about the shoulder joint particularly during flexion or overhead motions. The protraction of the shoulder blades also leads to internal rotation of the humerus and narrowing of the AC joint making individuals dealing with Upper Crossed Syndrome highly susceptible to "impingements".
We are all at risk for developing this postural dysfunction considering that I have yet to meet a person who doesn't know what facebook is, hasn't seen an episode of american idol, or doesn't own a couch. It's not realistic to expect everyone to change their hobbies or past times. Nor is it realistic to expect people to change their jobs so that they don't develop postural imbalances.
But what we can do is be aware of our risk for developing such problems and take preventive measures. For those who may be suffering from what I described above don't worry your not a lost cause, this imbalance can be corrected using the same measures we would employ to prevent it.
I am going to share an easy and simple intervention that can be used to help both prevent the development of upper crossed syndrome, especially if your someone who spends 8+ hours in a chair in front of a computer, and help correct the imbalanced if it has already manifested.
Now keep in mind each individual is different. Interventions should be tailored to the individuals needs following a through postural analysis and movement screen. If you interested in having me do this for you please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the services page and purchase a 60min consultation with me. But for the sake of providing help to those seeking a fix this is a general and overall effective method for dealing with this syndrome.
Upper Crossed Syndrome Intervention
Step 1: Self-Myofascial Release
Using a small implement, such as a lacrosse ball or tennis ball, roll out the shortened muscles groups, for the typical upper crossed syndrome these would include the upper traps and suboccipitals located below the skull on the back of the neck. Apply just enough pressure that you experience a slight discomfort. This should not be painful and be careful to avoid rolling any bony protrusions. Take 5 to 10mins to roll out these areas being slow and deliberate.
Step 2: Mobilization of Short Muscle Groups
Next mobilize or lengthen the areas you just released with the roller. This can be done with a number of different spine mobility drills and pectoral mobilizations. I will provide one for each below.
Quadruped T-Spine Mobilization - 2 sets of 6-8 reps on each side
Side Lying Pec Minor Mobilization - 2 sets of 5 reps on each side
Step 3: Strengthening Weak Muscle Groups
Now after mobilizing the over active, short muscles that were preventing the weak muscles from developing tension at given lengths we are going to turn on or strengthen the weak, overly stretched muscle groups.
One-Arm Standing Cable Row - 2 sets of 8-10 reps on each side
Band Pull Apart - 2 sets of 15 reps
Lying Y's - 1 set of 10 reps
Lying T's - 1 set of 10 reps
By following these three steps and using the above exercises you can slowly correct the postural imbalance if you are someone suffering from such symptoms described above. Incorporating these exercises into your existing training program can also help prevent these imbalances from ever occurring.
In addition to the exercises you can also take a proactive approach by sitting up right holding your chin back, and keeping your chest up while working in front of the computer.
NOW GET IN THE GYM AND TRY THIS STUFF OUT! TODAY!
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