What is it?
Upper cross syndrome is a term used when people present with poor posture. The head comes forward, the shoulders are rounded forward and there is typically a complaint of pain or tightness somewhere in the head or neck region. The underlying issue is typically due to a muscle imbalance that over time can be corrected.
The Potential Cause
Every body is different. Every lifestyle is different. Some people will be more resistant to pain in this type of position. Others will have a significant increase in their pain. An obvious cause is your work set up or demands. The human population used to survive by hunting and gathering. There lifestyle did not promote the progression of this posture. As we have transitioned into the technology age, things have changed. Many work at a desk for 6-8 hours a day. The ergonomics of the desk are poor and lead to increased muscle tightness. It also will allow other muscles to stop working ultimately creating an imbalance. Whether you read, look at our phone, or work at a desk, you will be at risk for developing pain due to upper cross syndrome.
When we hold muscles in a position for a prolonged period they will become tight. Imagine trying to stretch a rubber band after putting it in the freezer. This same concept will happen to a muscle in a shortened position. Below the “Blue” line represents muscles that will be in a shortened position. The “Red” line indicates muscles that will be put on slack. These groups of muscles oppose each other in movement. When you have two muscles that do the opposite action the brain cannot have them firing at the same time. So, when you make the” Blue” line muscles fire all the time, the “Red” line muscles will turn off. Over time the muscles will become weak.
What Does This Mean
Our body likes to be in balance. Muscles do not like to be on stretch or tightened for too long. The brain adapts based on the positions and situations we put our body in during the day. So if we put our head down it will reinforce those movements. However, our subconscious brain cannot identify that this will eventually turn into an issue down the road. Once this occurs, your subconscious brain will start to send pain signals. This is your warning sign from the brain. If you choose to ignore it or continue putting your body in these positions it will only get worse.
What to do?
There are a few things to look at addressing with this issue. Change your desk set up or ergonomics. Follow the link above. Change one thing at a time and see if you can identify the underlying issue. Change your jobs or habits all together. Maybe you do not need to look at your computer or phone for lengthy periods. Take short frequent breaks to give your neck a rest. Finally, try some targeted exercises or stretches that can be used throughout the day. For more about this, click the button below. Do not let this get worse and take action now.