upper-cross syndrome: how poor posture can derail your workout & yoga practice
People have asked me what’s the most beneficial exercise they can do- I without a doubt will always say work on your posture! It may sound simple, but most people are very unaware of their alignment. Poor posture can be can contribute to movement dysfunctions that can derail your workouts.
The average person hangs out in this position: shoulders rounded forward & elevated up into their ears, upper back slumped, & head protuded (sticking) forward. In the physical therapy world we call this upper-cross syndrome. It can lead to tightness, weakness, pain, &/or injury.
Now take this upper-cross syndrome into the gym, toss a few weights around, & oOohhwee we got ourselves a recipe for disaster. What’s worse than sitting with bad posture? Moving from a foundation of maladaptive posture.
Lets further break down upper-cross syndrome so you can fully understand why it can’t possibly be good for you.
- shoulders rounded: Your pecs are muscles that lie on the anterior chest wall. When your shoulders are rounded your pecs are placed in a shortened position which creates tightness along the front body. This position also compromises shoulder stability. Your shoulder is a ball & socket joint that is naturally very unstable, for the purposes of providing you with lots of mobility. To visualize this ball & socket arrangement, imagine a golf ball on a golf tee. Any deviations from proper posture throws off the integrity of its delicate alignment. When you hang out with your shoulders rounded forward, the ball isn’t sitting properly in its socket- which comes with many detrimental movement compensations.
- shoulders elevated up into the ears: Elevated shoulders usually accompany rounded shoulders because they are trying to compensate for any movement that occurs from this unnatural position. When your shoulders are buried in your ears, it invites all your stress to build up here & then this tension creeps up into your neck leading to headaches, muscle spasms, pain, & knots.
- upper back slumped: Your back muscles are not engaging properly to keep you upright when you’re hunched over. If your anterior muscles were in a shortened & tightened position, then your back muscles are put into a lengthened & weakened position. Some of the most important back muscles include those that surround your shoulder blade (scapula). The reason why your scapula is important is because it serves as the anchor for movement of the shoulder. If the muscles surrounding your shoulder blade are weak then the shoulder isn’t being properly controlled & guided during movement, putting you at risk for pain & injury.
- head protruded (sticking) forward: When your spinal column is in good alignment, the vertebrae are stacked on each other in a way that allows them to move & glide with ease. This also means that the muscles that attach to your spine can function optimally. When your upper back is slumped forward, it takes your head down with it. Chances are though, that you don’t want to be looking down, you want to be looking straight ahead. You now have to crank your neck up in order to look ahead. Kinking your neck up like this, compresses the cervical vertebra (neck bones) and puts an incredible amount of stress on your tiny neck muscles. Compressing your spine and straining your neck muscles like this on a regular basis can result in headaches, pain, and dysfunction.
To further understand the anatomy read the anatomy of the shoulder & how movement is controlled article
To maintain optimal alignment, improve your workouts, & reduce your risk for injury, perform regular “proper posture body scans.” Check out the better posture, better body article for cues & visuals!