As humans we experience muscular pain periodically through life. As young athletes, injuries may present us with pain at times when we over-exert ourselves. As young adults, our jobs and outside activities may produce pain that we are unaccustomed to. As aging adults, pain comes on almost at will. The older we get, pain has a mind of its own. My clients tell me, “getting old ain’t for wimps”. So the question is, Is it the fact we are getting older that we have more pain or is it because we have created the pain patterns that keep repeating? Inquiring minds want to know.
Upper Cross Syndrome, Lower Cross Syndrome, have you heard of these before? Probably not. These two musculoskeletal syndromes are responsible for more doctor visits than any other pain issue. 42% of all doctor visits in 2012, as recorded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services in their Vital Health Statistics 2014, were for neck and low back pain. It is important to understand how pain develops in these areas and then know how to resolve it.
Upper crossed syndrome is characterized by facilitation of the upper trapezius, levator, sternocleidomastoid, and pectoralis muscles, as well as inhibition of the deep cervical flexors, lower trapezius, and serratus anterior. Lower crossed syndrome is characterized by facilitation of the thoraco-lumbar extensors, rectus femoris, and iliopsoas, as well as inhibition of the abdominals (particularly transversus abdominus) and the gluteal muscles. A picture is worth a thousand words.
That was so easy to understand, riiigghhhtt. Let me break this down for you. Upper cross syndrome will present with a slightly forward head posture, shoulders sloping and rolling forward, upper back rolling forward. Pain in the upper cross is usually in the neck or between the shoulder blades. How did we get here? Easy, laziness! Just kidding, partly. Your posture, if only we would have listened to our parents, “stand up straight, or sit up straight, quit slouching”. We have all heard it. There is one other reason we tend to have poor posture and that is poor fitness. We have allowed our bodies to take control of our posture and it is doing a very poor job of it. If we would start a program of stretching the tight(facilitated) muscles-the pecs, lats, and anterior cervicals, while strengthening the weak(inhibited) muscles-rhomboids, upper traps, we could start to reprogram our bodies to a more correct posture.
You should have a grasp of what to do with neck pain, now let’s look at that lower cross syndrome. This will be a bit more difficult to see, however the pain will be unmistakable. The pain will typically present on one side of the low back or other, sometimes both sides. There will be difficulty standing straight up after sitting for long periods of time. This low back pain will disappear at times only to reappear and stay longer and longer. We sit way too much in our everyday lives. Students, office professionals and yes tired mothers all sit too much without correct exercise to correct the imbalances. Where do we go wrong? The sitting posture enforces the tightening(facilitated) of the psoas(hip flexor), and hamstrings while weakening(inhibited) the gluteal and transverse abdominus muscles. Understanding how we got here is what will assist us in getting our pain-free body back.
Understanding the mechanism that is involved with causing pain in our low back or neck will enable us to fix the pain ourselves. Adding pain killers and muscle relaxers will only push the inevitable back until, listen closely, until, sooner than later! Deciding to fix your low back with exercise and myofascial release therapy is the only way to reverse the pain. Doing nothing or just resting may make your low back or neck pain feel better, however, it only prolongs the time when you will have more pain and more discomfort and possibly more doctor visits than you care. Developing a good posture will help you remove the pain in your neck and low back, thus returning you back to a happy life!
Got Pain? Get Fit!