Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes

Most people do not have the best posture and I see it every day when new patients walk into my practice. Some patients have a slight hunch to their mid and upper back regions, some have forward leaning head positions, some have improper gait movements (the way someone walks or their stride), or sometimes all of the above. Regardless of which category you may fit into any and all of these affects you physically now and if not corrected will affect you far worse in the future. When a patient comes in with neck or low back pain or extremity problems like knee or shoulder pain there is a culprit behind every one of these issues and its part of the patient’s poor posture. It’s called Crossed Syndrome and more specifically, Upper Crossed Syndrome if it effects the neck, upper back and/or upper extremity regions or Lower Crossed Syndrome if it effects the low back and/or lower extremities.

                Upper and lower crossed syndromes are at the root of every patient’s primary complaint when dealing with posture and musculoskeletal problems. As a chiropractor, I always want to investigate the root problem and focus on more than just one area and not chase symptoms. So, what is a crossed syndrome? When your posture is improperly balanced certain areas of your body compensate for this by taking on a heavier workload and creating overly tight and spastic muscle, tendon and ligament tissue. The opposite happens for the muscles, tendons and ligaments that are not being asked to balance the workload of your bodies daily activities. Instead these soft tissues are now overly and constantly being stretched and lengthened. You have now created a dynamic of stronger soft tissues (contracted state) and weaker soft tissues (stretched/lengthened state). This puts your body in flux and out of its proper alignment and balance. Now let’s not forget about the joint structures as a whole which include the bones as well. The joints are compromised because of the crossed syndrome and therefore are misaligned putting excess pressure where it shouldn’t be for long periods of time. This becomes a problem beyond the present complaint for the patient because when the joint structure is out of position for long periods of time without correction, it will breakdown and create degeneration within the patients joints and soft tissue structures in the near future.

                First I will breakdown and explain the upper crossed syndrome and how it effects the patient. With upper crossed syndrome, patients typically complain about neck pain, shoulder or upper back pain. A patient’s head will be positioned forward in front of their shoulders instead of sitting above them. The shoulders will be rolled forward and the upper back is slightly hunched. The muscles that are in a strengthened state are the pectorails major and minor (chest muscles) as well as the posterior neck muscles like the upper trapezius and spinalis muscles along with the many other posterior muscles of the neck. The muscles that are in a weakened state are the rhomboids (minor and major) which sit in between your shoulder blades and the anterior neck muscles like sternohyoid (attaches to the sternum and hyoid bones), digastric muscles (attach into the mandible/jaw) as well as the many other anterior neck muscles. It’s called a crossed syndrome because if you were to take a patient and look at them from the side and make an imaginary “X” through their shoulder, this creates the four quadrants or regions that have opposite dynamics of stretching and contracting.

                For a patient that walks in with low back pain or lower extremity pain, they may be walking with a limp, slightly leaning to one side, walking stiffly, slightly hunched over or what’s considered not a fluid and smooth gait movement. For these patients, they will typically have very tight hip flexors (iliopsoas) and low back (erector spinae, quadratus lumborum) muscles. These are the soft tissues that are overly tight and contracted and in a state of strengthening. As for their counterparts, the stretched out and lengthened soft tissues consist of the abdominal (rectus abdominus, obliques) and butt (gluteus maximus), hamstring (semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris) muscles. These soft tissues are in a weakened state and again if you were to look at the patient from the side and draw an imaginary “X” through their hip region these would be the four quadrants of focus that have opposite dynamics. Now you may be asking yourself, “wouldn’t you want one side of your body relaxing (stretching/lengthening) while the other side tightens (contracts)?” The answer of course is yes you do but for a short period of time while your body performs a daily activity with the proper mechanics. If you have a crossed syndrome, then your mechanics within your joints and soft tissues are misaligned for much longer periods of time. This puts more than the normal amount of pressure and wear and tear on these areas, as well as too much stretching which can injure your soft tissues because they weaken over time in this syndrome and are more prone to injury like sprain/strain issues. So, with a crossed syndrome you have lost the proper balance within your body as well as a loss of proper mechanics and integrity to the joint(s) to perform day to day functions without breaking down and creating the degeneration as mentioned before, with an increased chance of injury.

                This is where the wonderful world of chiropractic comes to the rescue. As a chiropractor, I am trained to diagnose these types of problems and apply treatment and techniques that have proven, great results. I talked about soft tissues like muscles, tendons and ligaments being effected as well as the joints which are also compromised with upper or lower crossed syndromes. So, when I treat my patients with these conditions we work on both the hard and soft tissues. For the muscles that have been stretched out for too long we want to contract and strengthen them. So, my patients perform specific strengthening exercises to do so. As for the muscles that are overly tight we want to release and stretch them out and as you guessed it, I have my patients perform a specific series of stretches as well. Now we want to restore the integrity and proper mechanics of the misaligned joint(s) or as I like to technically call it the subluxations. This part of treatment is corrected through the chiropractic adjustment to each designated region that is effected from the crossed syndrome. Overtime we can restore the patient’s body to its normal alignment and proper balance to resolve their current problems, improve their posture and prevent injury in the future.

If you have joint or nerve pain or other health related problems then contact us today so we can restore your posture and eliminate your pain. Click on this link for a FREE consult!