As previously mentioned, upper crossed syndrome causes the pectoral muscles, upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles to become tight or facilitated. These muscles will need to be released or relaxed. Meanwhile, the deep neck muscles used to help nod the head and the lower trapezius and muscles between the shoulder blades become weak or inhibited. So, we'll need to work on building strength in these muscles.
1. Chest opening stretches to release the pectoral muscles (hold for min. 30 seconds)
2. Levator scapulae stretch (hold for min. 30 seconds on each side)
This can be a bit of an awkward position. Basically you want to point your nose towards each armpit. You can also try stretching your top arm up along a wall rather than bending at the elbow if it's more comfortable.
3. Deep neck flexor chin tucks (aka the double chin exercise)
This can be a tough one. It is a very small movement but you should feel deep neck muscles turning on (this may be a very light feeling at first). If you are having trouble with this, try pushing your tongue against the top of the roof of your mouth.
4. Band rows and reverse flys
You can do these with dumbbells or a cable machine as well. If you are just starting though, it can be beneficial to use a theraband as it is lighter resistance and can help make sure the right muscles are active during the exercise and that your upper trapezius and levator scapulae aren't taking over. Make sure your shoulders don't sneak their way up to your ears.
With lower crossed syndrome, hip flexor muscles such as the iliopsoas and rectus femoris and muscles of the lower back have a tendency to be tight while the abdominal muscles and gluteal (buttocks) muscles have a tendency to get weak. To help correct this, we will need to stretch the hip flexors and lower back, while building strength in the abdominals (core) and gluteal muscles.
1. Hip flexor stretch (hold for minimum 30 seconds on each side)
Be sure to keep a strong core during this stretch as it will help to make sure you are feeling the hip flexors stretch specifically. Also, if you're having trouble finding a good position for your stretch, try tucking your pelvis underneath yourself and then gliding your whole body slightly forward towards your front knee.
2. Quadratus Lumborum (lower back) stretch (hold for minimum 30 seconds on each side)
Try a variation on the child's pose from yoga. Start in the centre, then slowly reach over to one side, hold, then move on to the other side.
Make sure your spine stays neutral and that abdominal muscles are held tight/core is braced. Hold for a minimum of 6 seconds on each side.
4. Glute or hip bridging
Make sure you brace your core first, then push the hips to the ceiling, focusing on the gluteal or buttocks muscles doing the work. Double whammy working on both the abdominal and gluteal muscles!
These are only a small selection of exercises that can be used to help correct poor posture and upper and lower crossed syndromes. For a more complete and individualized evaluation, please book an appointment with a physioherapist or registered massage therapist. We'd love to help you achieve your goals!