Poor posture causing you neck pain?
Are you one of those people who gets stiffness and aching in your neck and upper back, which you commonly put down to bad posture? You may have what is known as Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS) which basically means there is a muscle imbalance between the muscles of the neck, shoulder, upper back and chest.
One of the key muscles; the trapezius muscle which helps stabilise the shoulder, is the most commonly overused muscle and a key factor into what creates the symptoms associated with UCS. It is a large kite shaped muscle and is often split into the upper, middle and lower “traps.”
So, what happens?
The upper trapezius muscle and the levator scapulae (muscles we use to shrug our shoulders) and the pectoral muscles (front of the chest) become short and tight, while the middle and lower traps and the muscles at the front of our neck become lengthened and weak. This muscle imbalance can lead to joint dysfunction and therefore pain.
•Forward head carriage- Your head is projecting forwards from your shoulder (You probably look down a lot too at gadgets!)
•Pronounced spinal curves- “The hunchback.”
•Rounded shoulders- Your pecs become too tight and the muscles between and below your shoulder blades become too weak, that your shoulders naturally round forwards.
•Winging of the shoulder blade- Hold your arms out by your side at 90°. Could you easily slide fingers under your shoulder blade and grab onto it? If you can, it is a sign of scapula winging.
•Shoulder, upper back and neck pain
•Sedentary lifestyle- Prolonged sitting with bad posture.
•Poor exercise technique- For example; Cycling with rounded upper back position
•Imbalanced training- Gym goers who regularly train their pectorals (often with poor technique), whilst rarely training their upper back.
So, what can you do?
•You need to learn how to “reset” your shoulders. I often say to people to try and pinch your shoulder blades together and try and put them in your back trouser pocket and then hold for 5-6 seconds. Find a way to remind yourself to do this regularly, for example, every time you look at your phone or every time you make a cup of tea.
•Pay attention to your upper traps. Are you sub-consciously holding up your shoulders when you’re sitting down, carrying bags, driving, cycling or even just walking around? How many of you just relaxed your shoulders just then!?
•Manual therapy- Come and see me or try a massage. At home try rolling tennis ball by leaning on it against a wall around the area of pain.
•Re-train yourself. Learn how to complete movements or exercises properly and incorporate these exercises into your daily routine.
If upper cross postures are not addressed, it can lead to several problems throughout the musculo-skeletal system. One of the most common problems is shoulder instability as when you over-compensate (through the traps), you switch off muscles that should be working, which causes instability. Other problems include headaches, nerve pain or rotator cuff problems. Long term, UCS can lead to osteo-arthritis.
Is this something you are struggling with?
Please feel free to call me to discuss whether osteopathic treatment is right for you.