I would say that 90% of the clients that come in with head, neck and shoulder pain also have a very popular postural condition. Often times it is not diagnosed because most people don’t see a PT unless they have had a major injury or a car accident. And yet, almost everyone has got it! Most of our doctors are NOT focused on this, and looking at our posture is our mom’s job anyway.Right? But by the time you are old enough to realize mom was right, no amount of sitting up straight can fix it.
Your head, neck and shoulders hurt because your upper back is weak. There I said it!
This postural observation is called Upper Cross Syndrome and it is characterized by a rounding of the Upper thoracic Spine (upper back), internally rotated shoulders (rounded shoulders) and a forward head posture (you look like a duck from the side view).
And your upper back is weak because (one or all of the following):
- You sit at a desk with your shoulders rounded forward all day
- You are at the gym doing crazy amounts of “push” exercises and never do any “pull” stuff .
- You are doing “pull” exercises but you are not engaging your back muscles and instead using your upper traps and shoulders to power through it.
- You are a female who has been subconsciously taught to round your shoulders because it makes you look gentle and kind.
- You are a tall person who rounds your shoulders inward and down to talk to short people …. like me.
…and the list could go on. The point is you NEED to change your habits but even more importantly you have got to strengthen your back!
Here are some solutions to the habits listed above:
If you sit at a desk with your shoulders rounded forward all day then,
Pull your desk forward and bring the computer screen and mouse closer to you, instead of leaning into it. If you need glasses -wear them!
If you are at the gym doing crazy amounts of “push” exercises and never do any “pull” stuff then,
Start focusing on more “pull” days. Exercises like lat pull downs, pull-ups, dumbell rows (or and kind of row) , reverse flyes, etc. are what you need to focus on. Guys stop doing heavy bench presses and focus on creating a sexy back … ladies you too! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to never do push-ups again, but if you’ve got poor posture you will need to focus more of your training there.
If you are doing “pull” exercises but you are not engaging your back muscles and instead using your upper traps and shoulders to power through it then,
This can be a tricky one. Maybe you are doing the right exercises but the muscles in your upper back that are weak (mainly the Rhomboids and mid traps) are not being activated. Try having your massage therapist (or trainer) tape your back with Kinesiotape or McConnell Tape, to re-educate the area next time you are in the gym. Or even just having your trainer or friend touch your upper back while you perform the exercise will help you focus on contracting those muscles. This will take time but it is worth it!
If you are a female who has been subconsciously taught to round your shoulders because it makes you look gentle and kind or because you have bigger breasts and are shy about it then,
Stop it! Work on becoming more assertive and owning an assertive posture. Not only will it help you build a more attractive physique (and boost your self-confidence) but it will save you years of head, neck and shoulder pain. If you are not strength training yet, pick up some weights and follow the instructions above. C’mon ladies if you’ve got it flaunt it!
You are a tall person who rounds your shoulders inward and down to talk to short people …. like me.
This is another tricky one! Get shorter… just kidding. All I can say is, don’t try to stoop down for other people. Instead meet them at their level by opting to sit down and talk. If you have had this habit for a long time you may need to strengthen your upper back and even KT tape for postural re-education.
I will more than likely write another post about this soon (or update this one). But I sincerely hope this information has helped. Leave comments below if you have questions or comments on your experience with Upper Cross Syndrome.