Posts Tagged ‘upper crossed syndrome’

Got neck pain? Check your shoulder.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

By Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, CGFI

A study published in the April issue of Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy brought up a good point about neck pain that I’ve told my patients on many occasions:  Neck pain and upper trapezius tightness/spasms are linked to your lower trapezius strength.

The trapezius (trap) muscle is a large trapezoidal-shaped muscle (hence the name) that essentially connects three points: the base of the head, the spine from your neck to your mid back, and your shoulders.  It moves the shoulder around and moves the neck.  It’s so big, it has three parts.  The upper trap comes from the base of your head, then goes out to the top of your shoulder, it’s the most common place to get tight and tense.  The middle trap comes from the middle of your back and runs sideways to the outside of your shoulder blade.  The lower trap comes from the lower parts of your mid back and then comes up and diagonally connects to the outside of your shoulder blade.

All of them are important with shoulder movement and stability. The study found that people who had neck pain also had weakness in the lower trap. Makes total sense.  I’ve told my patients on multiple occasions that the upper trap is always on, gets overworked, tense and painful, and the lower and mid traps get weak with poor posture.  If you can strengthen the mid and lower traps, you can take a lot of work away from the upper traps.  Unfortunately, our industrialized society of today places us in certain postures that limit the need for the lower trap and mid trap to work.

It’s all linked to posture.  Think about it.  You’re sitting down, reading this article on your computer, with your back slouched and your shoulders rounded forward.  This sets up a shortened upper trap, and stretched out mid and lower traps.  Stretched out muscles get weak, and shortened muscles get tight.  Reversing this situation is step one.  Think about turning off that upper trap and turning on your lower traps.  Make the weak muscles work and the tight muscles relax.

Work on getting your shoulder blades down and back.  In a previous post, Upper Crossed Syndrome, I mentioned an exercise that does just that, the Da Vinci Pose.  Breaking bad posture habits can do wonders for your neck pain.  Start there, and if you have any questions, consult your friendly neighborhood physiotherapist.

Upper Crossed Syndrome

Friday, December 10th, 2010

By Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, CCI, CGFI

Your mother always said, “Sit up straight.”  The truth is that she was right.  Our technologically advanced society today has relegated us to sitting most of the day, working in poor postures.  What results after prolonged static positioning is lengthening of certain muscles and shortening of other ones.  A lengthened muscle loses its ability to generate tension at a given length, resulting in weakness, and a shortened one loses it’s elasticity and becomes tight.  Your shoulders become rounded, your head starts jutting forward, and all the muscles that hold you up against gravity get weak.  These are common signs of Upper Crossed Syndrome.

As indicated in the picture, the chest pectoral muscles get short as do the muscles in the upper back and neck.  The muscles in the neck become weak, as do the postural muscles in the shoulder girdle.  This creates the “forward head – rounded shoulders” posture that is prevalent with most people and leads to issues such as: neck pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and even numbness and tingling in severe cases.

In my previous post, “The body-swing relationship”, I talked about the C-Posture.  This posture is the result of this Upper Crossed Syndrome.  It really puts your upper trunk and arms at a disadvantage in performing sports-related skills and even every day activities.

How do you fix it?

One way is to reverse the positions.  If your shoulders are forward and rounded, bring them back and down.  If your head and neck are jutting forward, bring it back and straight.  Think like a soldier standing at attention, up straight.  Getting out of the poor posture position is step one.  Break the habit.  Stretch the tight/short structures and strengthen the weak ones.  Once you’re aware of the problem, then you can start retraining your body to work more efficiently.

Exercises like lat pull downs or seated rows are great to strengthen those weak muscles in the upper and lower back.  Pec stretches that stretch out the front part of the chest are great for preventing those tight pectoral muscles.

One great exercise as outlined by Chris Johnson is the Da Vinci Posture.  Basically, you move your shoulder blades down and back and bring your body in the opposite position of the C-Posture.

Standing, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, contract the core.  Then rotate the hands so the palms are facing forward.  Slide your shoulder blades down, bringing your shoulders away from your ears, and then pull them in (think about trying to get your shoulder blades pulled into your back pockets).  Finally gently bring your chin in, so your head is in line with your shoulders.  See if you can hold this position for 30 seconds or even try and go for a minute.

Da Vinci Posture Exercise
Try it out as much as you can throughout the day, and you’ll be on your way to getting rid of that C-Posture.

Next up:  My favorite exercise… At least one of them…