Upper Crossed Syndrome
Every day in the office, I see the results of our technological culture. It seems that our gadgets, devices, and machines force human beings into a very particular posture: hands far in front of the body, arms outstretched, shoulder blades to the sides of the back, head bowed, neck forward. If you were to add up the hours of the day in which you assumed this position, I presume that it would be a high proportion of your day.
Typing on a computer. Texting on a cell phone. Driving a car. Cooking. Changing a diaper. Writing by hand. Reading a book, a magazine, or any electronic reading device. Eating at the kitchen table. Sitting on a couch. Lounging. Arranging flowers in a vase. Painting. Anything that requires attention to detail.
Chiropractors have known for many years the devastating impact this simple posture can wreak on your neck, upper back, and lower back if the posture becomes a habit. If any postural habit is not countered by proper exercises and chiropractic care, it may cause wide-ranging symptoms.
This particular posture has been called Upper Crossed Syndrome, and it can result in chronic headaches, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, chest pains, and more. Here's a technical definition of Upper Crossed Syndrome from a case report on chiropractic, headaches, and Upper Crossed Syndrome: "The upper crossed syndrome is defined as tightness of the upper trapezius, pectoralis major, and levator scapulae and weakness of the rhomboids, serratus anterior, middle and lower trapezius, and the deep neck flexors, especially the scalene muscles. [Dr. Vladimir] Janda named this syndrome 'Upper Crossed' because when the weakened and shortened muscles are connected in the upper body, they form a cross. This syndrome produces elevation and protraction of the shoulders, winging of the scapula, and protraction of the head. This atypical posture produces overstress of the cervical cranial junction, the C4-5 and T4 segments, and the shoulder due to altered motion of the glenohumeral joint."
And, apparently, Upper Crossed Syndrome affects even elite professional athletes. Aaron Rodgers, a famous quarterback who plays football for the Green Bay Packers, gave an interview in which he discussed increased chest flexibility. Rodgers has been known for the astonishing power and speed with which he throws a football, and is also acknowledged as one of the fastest quarterbacks in the NFL.
Rodgers credits his off-season flexibility workouts with increasing his speed and strength. "I did a lot of posture stuff with my workouts," he said, "making sure that I was doing more pulls for my back then pushes for my chest. Because whether you're an athlete or not, a lot of people internally rotate their shoulders which decreases your flexibility in your shoulder if you're a thrower.
"Or when you're sitting at a desk most of the days you're going to have your shoulders internally rotate. So to combat that, I'm doing more exercises to open up my chest and pull my shoulders back. It increases the flexibility on your shoulder and takes stress off of it. So those are some of the things I thought about."
Rodgers is specifically talking about Upper Crossed Syndrome. Here's one specific example: in order to throw a football, he first has to bring his throwing arm behind his head. But if he has been affected by a tightness in his pectoral muscle (which connects the upper arm to the chest), he won't be able to bring his arm back as far as he needs to. His "windup" won't have its full potential.
Look again at the picture above of the girl typing on the computer. See how her shoulders are slightly rotated forward? Ideal posture is with your arms straight down at your sides, palms to the front. In order to bring her arms into typing position, she has to turn her hands over. In turning her hands over, her shoulders turn inwards and forwards slightly, shortening the pectoral muscles. This is what Rodgers means by "internally rotat[ing] their shoulders."
The longer you remain in this posture, the more likely it is that your pectoral muscles (among others) will remain chronically tense or shortened, causing pains and health problems in the future. Chiropractors have had such great success with this particular postural problem because of our understanding of the mechanisms involved, our training, and our success with musculoskeletal issues.
After hearing Rodgers' enlightened comments on the issue, it may not come as a surprise that his father is a chiropractor in California. He has learned these basic postural principles throughout his life. "I want to be able to move around a little bit better out there," Rodgers said, "and I thought flexibility would be a good way to do that. So I focused on that a lot."
Upper Crossed Syndrome does not just affect professional athletes who are looking for an edge. It affects everyone. To learn more, contact Dr. Johnson today.