My neck and shoulders are constantly tight!

One of the most common conditions that patients suffer from these days is upper back and lower neck pain. The condition is often referred to as an 'upper-cross syndrome or cross-fix pattern'. This condition has become more and more common partly because as a society we are sitting more and more. The bottom line is that when you sit for long periods, you develop poor posture. Long term overload of the balancing muscles of the neck and back causes chronic tight muscles, as well as pulling against vertebra of the neck causing nerve irritation, headaches, and other painful stress related symptoms. Chiropractic treatment is very successful in treating these kinds of problems.

The pattern of imbalances in the upper body is a little difficult to explain, but the concept is not too difficult to understand. The cross-fix pattern seen in the upper body is simply a pattern of certain muscles that become tight and certain muscles that become weak. The pattern is called a 'cross-fix' because when we look at the muscles that are weak, and the muscles that are tight, they appear to cross each other in a pattern that looks like a cross.

The upper body cross-fix is really quite easy to identify. This is due to the fact that the muscle imbalances can easily be seen with your own eyes! This abnormal patterning can be found in any person who subjects themselves to postural stresses on a daily basis. Some of these postural stresses include sitting at a desk for long periods of time, using a computer for extended hours, or driving long distances. During such postural positions, the head tends to jut forward and the shoulders round forward in a slumped posture. OUCH! This leads to a position we call anterior head carriage! It is safe to say that our bodies were not designed to hold such static postures for long periods of time...our neck muscles become overworked trying to hold the jutted head up and back against the force of gravity! Over time, the continued postural stresses create muscle imbalances as you try to keep your head 'up'. This leads to pain and dysfunction! The imbalances create the upper cross-fix pattern, resembling the letter 'X'.

The muscle imbalances result in a posture that creates a forward head and rounded shoulder appearance. Look around you...I am sure you will be able to identify someone who exhibits this postural problem. It really is quite common! If nothing is done to change this problem, it will lead to:

- Premature degeneration of the joints in your neck and upper back

- Headaches and migraines

- TMJ problems (jaw joint)

- Neck pain

- Back pain- upper and lower

- Ache and burning in the shoulders and upper back

- Rotator cuff disorders

- Aggravation of tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome

- Trigger points and fibromyalgia

- Digestive disturbances, bowel problems and menstrual dysfunction due to circulation failures.

- Allergies and weak immune function

- Lastly it just looks really awful

If something is done early this can be corrected. If left until many or all of the above symptoms are well established all we can do is help with symptom relief.

First, the faulty mechanics of the joints in the different areas of the back and neck have to be corrected. This is achieved by spinal manipulation of the involved joints to restore proper joint function. If the joints do not function properly then the muscles and ligaments won't work properly either. Once proper joint motion is restored, specific exercises can be given to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles. The exercises, if performed on a regular basis, can do a lot to reverse the effects of poor posture. Sometimes cervical (neck) extension/compression traction is necessary to help restore a proper cervical lordosis (the curve in your neck that is often lost). In addition, a review of good posture and proper ergonomics can also provide essential information needed to help reverse, correct, and prevent the pattern from recurring. By keeping good posture, you can prevent many musculoskeletal problems from occurring.

This translates to LESS pain and degeneration in the future. Failure to identify the warning signs of musculoskeletal imbalances will lead to certain dysfunction and pain. Paying attention to the health of your body now will keep you healthy in the future.

I hope this article has helped you understand one of the most common postural faults and has given you enough information so that you work to head off future musculoskeletal problems.

Chiropractic treatment consisting of gentle adjustment techniques coupled with manual release therapies has gotten excellent results at our clinic. If you suffer from pains and aches in your neck, shoulders or upper back area you may benefit from chiropractic care. Whether your symptoms come once every 3 months, or you suffer everyday from headaches, relieving pressure in the neck and shoulders will make a huge difference! Don't let pains and aches rule your world. Give chiropractic a chance. It will change your life!

Karen Williams

BSC. M. Chiropractic. MNZCA

For additional information please call Three Lamps Chiropractic 09 378 0069

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