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Correcting Upper Crossed Syndrome 

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If you’re like the millions of people who use electronic gadgets such as a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desk computer, you’ve probably spent hours upon hours looking at the screen with your head jutted forward – as is common with a forward head position. Other situations that could have you holding your head front of your shoulders include reading books, prolonged time behind the steering wheel or watching TV. 

Whatever the cause, the migration of your head to this forward position can ultimately lead to hyperactive muscles and a matching set of underactive muscles. Today postural distortion pattern, known as upper cross syndrome (UCS), can result in imbalances of muscle tone or time, often leading to inefficient movement patterns, and in this tech intensive culture, increased stress on the head, neck and shoulder joints. 

Poor posture at any level may lead to muscle imbalances. This can have a trickle-down impact into the rest of the body, not only in the immediate areas of the neck and shoulders. An similar series of muscular imbalances in the hip region, referred to as lower crossed syndrome, can oftentimes be detected in conjunction with upper crossed syndrome. 

When seeking for long-term success in reducing UCS, identifying and resolving postural abnormalities that could present elsewhere in the body will also be important. This total-body method will relieve tensions through the entire kinetic chain, while also increasing desired results. It is also go-to for movement specialists in the fitness industry. 

Identify Imbalances 

When working with clients or completing your personal fitness routine, gaining and maintaining optimal posture is crucial to a safe and productive programme. In order to resolve postural or movement imbalances, the less-than-ideal posture has to be diagnosed and a corrective workout approach developed.This corrective programme might have two applications. First, it can act as a stand-alone phase of training that will help the client gain better postural control and endurance. Second, it can be employed as the movement preparation for an exercise. 

In the first use, the client may be in a post-rehabilitation position and need a programme that blends flexibility with local and integrative strengthening. The second use will most likely be for the customer wishing to move better and develop coordination before introducing speed and increasing force throughout their workout session. 

The first step to fixing any postural distortion pattern is being able to identify the ailment. Upper crossing syndrome can be noticed from different perspective points with varied motions. Some fundamental tests that can be done to discover distortion patterns are gait observations, overhead squat, pushing and pulling motions, and static posture analyses. With any postural assessment—static, dynamic or transitional—UCS can be seen by watching head position relative to the shoulders, and the arms and shoulder blades relative to the ribs. 

Corrective Exercise As A Solution 

Assessment(s) results can now be employed to design a programme. The four-step corrective exercise process for upper crossed syndrome starts by inhibiting or relaxing the possible overactive muscles (usually through foam rolling), lengthening these same muscles, followed by strengthening the complementing underactive muscles, and finally, integrating the involved muscles to reestablish functional synergistic movement patterns. 

This four-step procedure of achieving a more optimal posture is a way of re-educating the body and in this case, the upper body. Generally this corrective method works to enhance range of motion, to improve local strength, and to assist the client in learning to better regulate the acquired range of motion. Added benefits also include a possible decrease in pain and stiffness, stability of the upper torso, and enhanced physical performance in training and in play. When the head, neck and shoulders are functioning better, so does the rest of the body. 

Step 1: Inhibit/Self-Myofascial Release Overactive Muscles 

  • Upper Trapezius, 
  • Levator Scapulae, SCM 
  • Hold pressure on tender spots for 30 seconds. 
  • Inhibit/self-myofascial release hyperactive muscles 

Step 2: Lengthen/ Static Stretch 

  • Upper Trapezius 
  • Tuck chin and slowly move left ear to left shoulder. 
  • Levator Scapulae 
  • Continue by rotating chin downward until a minor stretch is felt on the right side. 
  • SCM 
  • Same as above, except rotate chin upward. 
  • Perform the routine on both sides, holding each stretch position for 20–30 seconds. 
  • Lengthen/static stretch 

Step 3: Activate/Strengthen 

  • Chin Tucks 
  • Get on hands and knees with back straight and head in line with spine. Extend chin toward the floor. 
  • Scoop chin down toward chest as far as possible (like nodding “yes”). Keeping chin near to body, slide back into the beginning position. 
  • Chin Tucks 
  • Floor Cobra 
  • Lie on the floor, arms at side of body (or with arms in front of body in a “Superman” stance), palms facing toward ground. 
  • Pinch shoulder blades together and elevate chest off the floor. Hold for 2 seconds. Slowly return body to the ground, maintaining chin tucked. 
  • Floor Cobra 

Step 4: Integrate 

  • Ball Combination 
  • Lie with abdomen on a stability ball, maintaining feet pointing down and legs straight. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. 
  • Lift chest off the ball, keeping back and neck in appropriate alignment. Extend arms in front of body. Squeeze glutes and lift arms, keeping thumbs up and pinching shoulder blades back and down (scaption) (scaption). 
  • Move arms straight out to side with thumbs up (abduction) (abduction). 
  • Move arms to the side of the body with thumbs up, retract and depress shoulder blades (cobra) (cobra). 
  • Hold briefly at each point, then return arms to extended posture in front of body (position 2). (position 2). Repeat 10–15 times, for 1–2 sets. 

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