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Upper Crossed Syndrome

A condition that is increasing in prevalence is Rounded Shoulder Syndrome, also known as Upper Crossed Syndrome.

The Syndrome is characterised by a forward head posture, rounded shoulders and an increased curvature of the upper/mid back. In some cases the shoulders are elevated and rotated inward with the palms facing back instead of to the sides of the body. This condition occurs when certain muscle groups become short and tight while other muscle groups become lengthened and weak. Unless something is done to offset these imbalances, the integrity of the surrounding joints, muscles and connective tissue will be adversely affected. In addition, Upper Crossed Syndrome can lead to shoulder impingement, neck dysfunction, headaches and decreased brain function, restricted oxygen uptake, (which can interfere with removal of waste products leading to decreased energy levels), and cell toxicity.

Upper Crossed Syndrome may affect both the sedentary, inactive population as well as the seasoned exerciser who places too much emphasis on chest or pectoral development. The biggest contributor however, is the increasing amount of time we spend sitting in front of computers, watching TV or just sitting around talking on the phone.

With 85 per cent of neck and shoulder pain originating from muscular imbalances, emphasis in a physical therapy/ exercise program should first be placed on creating postural awareness and correcting any postural faults prior to working with resistance. If therapy commences without attention to these imbalances, the effectiveness of the therapy program is diminished while risk of injury is greatly increased.

Obviously each individual is slightly different, in general those with Rounded Shoulder Syndrome will display tightness in the following muscle groups: Pectorals (chest), Anterior (muscle at the front of the shoulder) Deltoid, Latissimus Dorsi, Upper Trapezius (which elevate the shoulder blades) and the Neck Extensors. The following muscles will most likely be lengthened and weak: Rhomboids (muscle between the shoulder blades), Mid and Lower Trapezius (which draw the shoulder blades inward and downward), Posterior Deltoid (back of the shoulder), Rotator Cuff muscles and deep neck flexors.

To help offset this condition, start with postural awareness exercises that will encourage proper body alignment. Ideally, the ear should be in line with the shoulder and the medial (inside) border of the shoulder blades should be no more than 6 inches apart from each other and equal distance from the spine. Palms should face the sides of the body (rather than facing the back wall) when standing. Think of standing or sitting tall and gently drawing the head back, remaining wide across the chest while bringing the shoulders down and slightly back. Try performing this movement 10 to 12 times per day holding for 5 to 10 seconds at a time. Do not strain in an attempt to increase range of movement. Discontinue if there is pain associated with this or any other movement and consult your doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist. The next step is to stretch those muscle groups that exhibit tightness. For example, to stretch tight pectorals (chest) muscles find a doorframe and position your arms out to the sides at shoulder level with elbows slightly bent. Next, slowly lean your torso through the doorway until a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Finally, begin to strengthen weak muscle groups such as the rhomboids using exercises that retract the shoulder blades such as seated or bent rows. Pay attention to using proper form and to all muscle groups involved.

It is worthwhile to consult with a Qualified Physical Therapist to design a program that will specifically address your needs and ensure that you are doing exercises with proper form. Good postural habits aren't developed overnight, so it is important to have patience and to be consistent with your program. Because only then will you reap the rewards!

Terry O'Brien

By: Terry OBrien

Article Directory: http://www.articledashboard.com

Terry has been involved in General Medicine for over 30 years, starting out as a Medical Officer in HM Forces.


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