In the last post, I discussed common muscle imbalances of the lower half of the body which can affect pelvic alignment and contribute to a host of orthopedic conditions and predispose a person to injury.
“Upper cross syndrome” is the term Dr. Janda used to identify a common muscular imbalance of the upper quarter. In upper cross syndrome, stiffness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula on the backside of the neck crosses with stiffness of the pectoral muscles. This is combined with lengthened and weakened deep neck flexors and middle/lower trapezius.
This muscle imbalance manifests itself in a less than optimal postural appearance. A forward head and increased t-spine kyphosis (hunchback), and lackluster t-spine mobility are some common features of upper cross syndrome.
Like lower cross syndrome, upper cross syndrome is often a by-product of excessive sitting and deskwork.
As mentioned in Part I of this post, muscle imbalances can have an affect on regions above and below the region of imbalance. Muscle imbalances affect normal joint mechanics and alter normal movement. In the case of upper-cross syndrome, this imbalance can contribute to different types of neck, shoulder, and elbow pain. It could even contribute to certain types of headaches and jaw pain (e.g. TMJ disorder).
Fortunately, the right training methods and prehab/rehab drills can reduce the affect of this type of imbalance. A great starting point would be to address t-spine mobility.
Working on stiff soft tissue with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, or mobility stick is a good way to prep for movement. You can follow this up with drills to work on pectoral mobility.
Once you’ve done some mobility work, arm bars with a kettlebell are a great way to engage the musculature of the upper back.
Done properly, deadlifts help engage the entire backside of the body, including those that are commonly weak in upper cross syndrome.
If going overhead is pain free, chops and lifts are great for engaging the upper quarter muscular in a functional pattern while simultaneously working on stability at your core and hips.
As always, finding a good movement provider can help identify the nuances of muscular imbalances and get your body back on track to feeling and moving better.
If you would like to avoid turning into Quasimodo, try a few of these drills to see how effective they can be.