Upper Crossed Syndrome – are you sitting up straight?
My mum always used to say to me “sit up straight” if she ever caught me slouching. She was definitely on to something. I’m not sure she knew the reason why she said it to me but it is something I remember whenever I find myself at a keyboard or eating my dinner.
So what does this have to do with running I hear you ask?
Well you are all probably very aware of the necessity for runners to remain upright while running, it provides us with a body that provides a centre of gravity in line with our base of support, rather than a centre of gravity that is slightly ahead of us.
When we lean forwards and loose our central centre of gravity the body has to work harder to maintain the running action and speed, all in all it’s more effort. Also you may not be aware of the long-term effects that slouching can have on your body and the subsequent impact that can have upon your running.
In 1979 Dr. Vladimir Janda defined the term Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS), it refers to a change in the position of the chest, upper back, head and pelvis, it’s very often accompanied by shoulders that are internally rotated (turned in towards the chest), a rounded upper back and forward head position. The lower back is very curved with a bottom that sticks out more than it should.
There is single thing that results in UCS but rather an accumulation of factors over a long period of time. Not sitting up correctly is just one example of poor posture, when you add in sitting on a sofa for prolonged periods, working on a computer at a desk, driving a car for long periods or running in a slouched position repeatedly you are putting your body into roughly the same shape.
Over time this can cause changes to your posture and could lead to upper cross syndrome. Living with postural changes isn’t necessarily a problem but very often these changes to our posture can lead to injury, especially when we place increased loads via running through an altered anatomy.
UCS can lead to nerve pain in the neck and arm(s), instability in the shoulder while lifting overhead, headaches, and the appearance of rotator cuff problems. In the long term, UCS can also lead to osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease.
Exercises that can help combat UCS
Following long periods in a slouched position, stand tall, place your hands on your hips with your fingers pointed towards the ground and then try to touch your elbows together behind your back, hold that position for 20 to 30 seconds.
Rowing actions help to switch on the upper back muscles and it is quite easy to use a theraband anywhere, just loop it around a street lamp or pole on your next run, stand tall, head up, eyes level, pull the resistance band backwards with both hands keeping your shoulders back and down. Repeat 15 times (you can buy different strengths of resistance band) for three sets with a minute’s rest in between sets.
When running try to imagine that your are being suspended from the top of your head and run tall. Not only will it help to undo UCS it will also place your centre of gravity more over your base of support (feet) which will in-turn conserve energy over time. While there is loads more you could be doing but these two exercises aren’t not a bad starting point and will help you to relieve some of the tension that has perhaps built up in your chest and upper back.
So next time you’re slumped in a chair sit up straight!
Enjoy your running