By Dr. Brian Chinn
Do you ever experience headaches? Maybe your mid back aches, or your upper traps just “feel tight all the time” and you can’t seem to do enough to stretch them out and calm them down. It’s likely that you are experiencing Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS).
In today’s society, the postures we get into and activities we are involved in are what leads to the development of this condition. If you have spent any time at a desk or working on the computer, have had to do the dishes, or even just have a cell phone; you are at risk of developing UCS. Being flexed forwards or bent over having to do work for any length of time is simply not good for our posture. The more time we spend at these activities, the worse it gets! We need some way to get out of these terrible positions with some great exercises to counteract the problem. But first…
Excellent Question! It was first identified and described in more detail by a man named Vladimir Janda. Dr. Janda was one of the first medical practitioners who researched and adopted the use of physical medicine and rehabilitation exercises. His methodology and protocols are still widely used today and we studied his work extensively in Chiropractic school.
Upper Cross Syndrome is a term that Dr. Janda used to describe specific sets of muscles that have become weak or inactive, that are in opposition to another group of muscles that have become tight and short. UCS identifies this pattern specifically in the upper body. The muscles that become weak and/or inhibited are; deep neck flexors, serratus anterior, and mid-lower trap. The muscles that become tight and short are; upper trap, levator scapulae, the pectoral muscles, and sternocleidomastoid (SCM).
The crazy thing is that this condition is showing up more and more in kids! When I started in practice 10 years ago, it was more rare to see this as prominently in the younger generation. But with cell phones taking over, it is becoming more prevalent at an early age, and will become incredibly problematic much earlier in life if it is not corrected.
The good news is, there are some great exercises and stretches that can work to get us out of the bad posture that leads to UCS and start working towards correcting this muscle imbalance. Simply put, we want to stretch the muscles that have become chronically tight and over active, and strengthen the muscles that have become weak and/or inhibited. Often, a history of shoulder injury complicates the approach to treatment when it comes to UCS. If you have traditionally struggled to correct these muscle imbalances on your own, there could be an underlying condition that is causing problems and limiting your progression. I would encourage you to get evaluated by a professional that can help you out and point you in the right direction!
Remember, movement is good for the body and the sedentary lifestyle often leads to Upper Cross Syndrome, so get out and move!
-Brian Chinn, DC
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