Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS) is defined as a phenomenon that occurs as a result of muscle imbalance between your neck and shoulder muscles. UCS is the result of weak deep neck flexor muscles and mid back muscles as well as tight upper trap muscles and tight chest muscles. UCS often results in a rounded shoulder and forward head posture. UCS is fixed by strengthening the weak musculature and lengthening or stretching the tight musculature. Specifically, stretching out the pectorals, upper traps, and levator scapula muscles while also strengthening the deep neck flexors, lower traps, and serratus anterior muscles. Tools such as foam rollers and manual stretching may aid in lengthening the necessary musculature, while exercises such as chin tucks, serratus punches, and prone Ys may assist in strengthening the necessary muscles.
As more of us work from home, we are at a higher risk of developing overuse injuries including carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a common condition that is associated with pain, numbness, and tingling in the wrist and hand. This occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves that travels through the forearm and hand, becomes compressed as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Common causes of this compression and irritation to the nerve include repetitive hand and finger use when typing and writing as well as poor wrist and hand positioning while performing these activities. Here are some suggestions to help prevent and treat this condition:
- Take breaks – If you find yourself doing a lot of typing throughout the day, make sure that you are taking a 10 minute break from typing every hour at the minimum.
- Keep your wrists neutral – Avoid excessive bending of the wrists in either direction to avoid increased compression on the nerve. As you type, try to keep your wrists in a neutral or slightly extended position
- Focus on posture – The positioning of the rest of your body, including your head, neck, and shoulders can contribute to symptoms all the way into the hands. As you sit at your desk, make sure that you maintain good posture by keeping your head upright, shoulders back, and avoiding a slouched posture.
- Stretch – Tightness in the muscles of the wrist and forearm can contribute to your symptoms. As you are taking a break every hour, stretch the muscles by pulling your hand and fingers back towards you and holding for 30 seconds at a time, as seen in the picture below.
Do you find yourself slouching all day at work? Do you experience upper back or neck pain at the end of the day?
Slouching at work causes chest muscles to tighten and places extra stress on your upper back and the muscles that you normally use to achieve good posture. Stretching and mobilizing in your upper back can help decrease these symptoms and improve postural awareness while sitting at work. Check out these foam roll exercises. These can be performed daily to help decrease muscle tightness and improve posture. Always make sure to check with your physician or physical therapist to ensure these exercises are appropriate for you.
Written by: Holly Hibbard, D.P.T.
As we sit throughout our day looking at a computer screen, we slowly start to develop a forward head posture and rounded shoulders. There are many postural exercises that we can perform throughout our day to help prevent this “slumped” posture. Check out this video by Dr. Amanda at Harbor Physical Therapy to learn how to perform a scapular retraction exercise to help improve your sitting posture.
There are 3 major types of headaches:
Cluster and migraine headaches generally are due to a problem with the blood vessels while tension headaches are typically due to poor posture. Tension headaches usually cause a dull pain in the head, neck, temples, scalp or shoulders.
Forward head posture is a leading cause of neck pain, headaches, and shoulder pain. For every inch your head is located more forward from sitting right on top of your shoulders, the perceived weight of your head increases by 10 pounds.
Steps to improve posture:
- Set-up your work station to decrease strain on your neck.
- The top 1/3 of the screen should be even with your eyes.
- Elbows should rest comfortably by your sides.
- Hips should be slightly higher than your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
- Use a supportive neck pillow for sleeping.
- Perform neck stretches throughout the day.
- Perform postural strengthening exercises throughout the day.
If these steps do not improve your posture, schedule an appointment at Harbor Physical Therapy to address tight musculature and receive a catered exercise program based upon your presentation.
Do you sit in front of the computer most of the day? Do you get tension headaches, neck pain, and sore chest muscles?
This is a result of repetitive forward head movement that can be from typing, reading and looking down to write. Excessive forward head posture puts strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. Perform the pectoralis stretch below to decrease strain to your neck and shoulder muscles.
Stand in a doorway and place your arms about 90 degrees along the sides of the door frame. Step through the door frame until you feel a stretch across your chest. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Alternate your foot forward with each stretch.
The core muscles include upper abdominal muscle, rectus abdominus , lower abdominal muscle, transverse abdominus, internal and external oblique muscles, and lower back muscles.
Strength and power originate from the center of the body. The core stabilizes the body with arm and leg movement. If the core is weak, you have a greater chance of back injury. If the core muscles are strong, it decreases the likelihood of back injury with pulling, pushing, lifting, bending, and reaching. A strong core improves posture, balance, stability, and endurance during activity.
If you want to learn how to perform core strengthening exercises, contact Harbor Physical Therapy.
Headaches can be related to muscle tightness. Tension in the neck muscles can radiate symptoms to the jaw, shoulder, or head. For example, tightness in the upper trapezius muscle (on the top of the shoulder) is a frequent cause for pain in the temples. Tight muscles in the back of the head underneath the skull can cause headaches in the back of the head or radiate pain to the forehead. Cervical spine tightness can also trigger migraines. Poor posture, muscle weakness, and spinal alignment can all contribute to headaches.
Physical Therapy will decrease muscle tightness, restore mobility to the joints, improve postural awareness, improve body mechanics with daily activities, and improve strength and stability. Physical therapist use modalities such as moist heat, ice, soft tissue massage, manual techniques, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, stretching, and postural strengthening exercises to provide treatment for headaches.
If you suffer from headaches, tight neck muscles might be the cause. Contact Harbor Physical Therapy for an evaluation to determine if your headaches are related to muscle tightness.
A trigger point is a specific spot on a tight band of muscle that is hyperirritable. Usually you can feel a nodule or knot in the muscle. When you put pressure on the trigger point, it will feel tender and possibly radiate pain to another area.
Trigger points are most commonly located in the postural muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Trigger points can manifest themselves in tension headaches, ringing in the ear, and jaw pain.
Lack of exercise, sitting at a computer with poor posture, vitamin deficiencies, lack of sleep and micro trauma that occurs with sports and repetitive activities can all contribute to trigger points.
Physical therapists are trained to help inactivate these trigger points. Physical therapists will use modalities such as heat or ice, soft tissue massage, ultrasound and stretching to help reduce pain and tightness at the site of the trigger point.
While standing, if you can draw an imaginary straight line through your earlobe, the tip of your shoulder, through your knee, and the middle of your ankle, you have good posture. Standing with good posture usually involves doing a slight chin tuck so your head is over your shoulders, pulling your shoulders back and tucking in your stomach.
Good posture lends to less stress on your joints and muscles resulting in less discomfort and risk for injury. At first, maintaining good posture may be tiring. Eventually, you will build up the endurance in your muscles and it will come more naturally.
Here are some examples of stretches that you can perform to help achieve good posture.
Pectoralis muscle stretch– Just put your hands up on a doorway and gently step through with one foot until you feel a stretch. All stretches should be held between 15-60 seconds.
Hamstring stretch– You can sit or stand. Put one foot up on a step or the coffee table and lean toward your foot.
Shoulder blade squeezes– You can just squeeze your shoulder blades together or use an exercise band to row your shoulder blades together.
Good posture involves training the body to be in a position that results in less strain on your muscles and joints. If you are looking to improve your posture or decrease your neck/back pain with long-term sitting or standing, make an appointment at Harbor Physical Therapy for an individualized treatment program.