Despite the easing of Covid-19 restrictions of late, many of us continue to primarily work from home. This means spending hours on end at a workstation that more than likely is not designed with proper posture in mind. Prolonged sitting in of itself has been shown to cause several adverse health effects, but when you throw in an unsound desk setup, postural dysfunction is bound to happen. This postural dysfunction is called upper crossed syndrome and is one of the most common conditions that we treat here at HealthFit. It derives its name from the alternating areas of weakness and tightness that develop over time from excessive sitting with poor posture, especially when using electronic devices. The areas of tightness are the front of the chest as well as the back of the neck and upper shoulders, and the areas of weakness are the front of the neck and the back of lower shoulders. This is because as we sit for prolonged periods our head begins to protrude forward and downward and our shoulders begin to round, especially when typing, using a mouse, or thumbing through our phones. Over time this will lead to adaptive changes in these areas where the shortened tissues (front of chest and back of neck and upper shoulders) become tight, and the lengthened tissues (front of neck and back of lower shoulders) become weak. Hence the name upper crossed syndrome. This syndrome can lead to chronic pain in the neck, upper back, shoulder, and headaches, to name a few. The course of treatment is to initially release the tight areas and promote tissue healing through techniques such as therapeutic massage, chiropractic manipulation, stretching, and modalities such as ultrasound, then eventually strengthening the weak areas with corrective exercises. The good news is that with a comprehensive treatment plan most patients not only see their pain resolve but also their posture improve considerably. Once the patient has been released from clinical care, we then encourage a supportive exercise plan to help promote the healthy tissues and maintain the correct posture, with the goal of moving them into one of the numerous Fit programs available depending on their level of conditioning and exercise background.
If the pandemic has forced you to work from home more (or exclusively) and despite your best attempts to setup your workstation correctly you suffer from chronic discomfort in your head, neck, shoulders, and/or upper back, now is the time to get it looked at. Waiting for the pain to go away on its own or taking over-the-counter medication regularly will not correct the underlying problem and usually leads to chronic dysfunction and permanent skeletal changes. And with the pandemic restrictions slowly easing up what better way to get back to normal by getting back to feeling normal!