Tag: stretching

chiropractor better posture poor posture upper crossed syndrome Upper crossed posture postural muscles chiropractic chiropractor stress muscle imbalance Janda postural control weak inhibited suboccipitals stress stressed kinematic neck weak headache migraine sitting desk Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth Southampton Havant Cosham Southsea

How poor posture causes pain

Sitting at a desk all day may mean you’re conscious of poor posture. You’ll know it can lead to headaches, muscle pain, stress and more. You may therefore be familiar with “Upper Crossed Syndrome “without even knowing it.

It’s not a serious condition but it can give rise to headaches, migraines, joint pain, muscle pain and stress. If you’re a keen gym-goer, it can also prevent you being able to reach your optimal training threshold.

What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?

It’s caused by overlapping overactive and underactive muscles throughout the neck, chest and shoulders. The chest muscles (pectorals) and muscles at the rear or side of the neck (upper trapezius, levator scapulae, suboccipitals and sternocleidomastoid) are overly tight or “facilitated”. The deep flexor muscles in the front of the neck and the rhomboids, lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles are weak or inhibited.

chiropractor better posture poor posture upper crossed syndrome Upper crossed posture postural muscles chiropractic chiropractor stress muscle imbalance Janda postural control weak inhibited suboccipitals stress stressed kinematic neck weak headache migraine sitting desk Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth Southampton Havant Cosham Southsea
Source: http://www.muscleimbalancesyndromes.com/janda-syndromes/upper-crossed-syndrome/

A chap called Janda coined the term “Upper Crossed Syndrome”. According to his book “Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach” Upper Crossed Syndrome can lead to…..

“Dysfunction, particularly at the atlanto-occipital joint, C4-C5 segment, cervicothoracic joint, glenohumeral joint, and T4-T5 segment.  Postural changes decrease glenohumeral stability as the glenoid fossa becomes more vertical due to serratus anterior weakness leading to abduction, rotation, and winging of the scapulae. This loss of stability requires the levator scapula and upper trapezius to increase activation to maintain glenohumeral centration (Janda 1988).”

You can see how a simple matter of muscular imbalance can lead to a range of issues.

What causes it?

This is caused by a build up of small issues, such as:

  • Prolonged sitting at a desk then causes forward head carriage.
  • Poor technique when training (such as overtraining the chest and neglecting the mid-back) affects the chest and upper back.
  • Having a large bust contributes to rounded shoulders.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Forward head carriage- when looking at yourself side-on in a mirror, your ear should be in line with your shoulder. If it’s not, it’s what we call forward head carriage.

    chiropractor better posture poor posture upper crossed syndrome Upper crossed posture postural muscles chiropractic chiropractor stress muscle imbalance Janda postural control weak inhibited suboccipitals stress stressed kinematic neck weak headache migraine sitting desk Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth Southampton Havant Cosham Southsea
    Source: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Age-related_hyperkyphosis
  • Increased inward curvature of the cervical spine (hyperlordosis).
  • Increased outward curvature of the thoracic spine (hyperkyphosis or “humpback”) . Tight muscles in the front of the chest pull you forwards, weak muscles in the upper back can’t resist the pull. Add in forward head carriage and you can end up with hyperkyphosis. In some cases, the neck can look normal because we simply overextend through the neck to hold the head up properly!
  • Breathing dyfsunction caused by over-activated muscles and compression of the rib cage.
  • Rounded shoulders and rotator cuff issues- Muscular imbalances affect the function of the shoulder joint. Due to the imbalance, rotator cuff muscles then have to work harder to stabilise the shoulder joint. This can ultimately lead to shoulder impingement and rotator cuff strain.
  • Winging of the scapula- the shoulder blades jut out instead of lying flat against the ribcage.
  • Chronic pain caused by trigger points (tender points) in the affected muscles.
  • Migraines and tension headaches due to tension in the surrounding muscles and dysfunction in the cervical and thoracic spine.
  • Pins and needles or tingling in the arms- Rounded shoulders and forward head carriage can compress the blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and first rib.

The affected muscles have a lower threshold for irritation and dysfunction. This means they very quickly become affected by faulty movement, leading to more pain and problems. As a result this puts stress on the involved joints, leading to further pain. As you can see, poor posture is contagious. Not like a bad cold shared around the office…  Instead it starts in one area and then affects another, which in turn affects another.

How can we treat Upper Crossed Syndrome and Poor Posture?

Your chiropractor will work with you to restore normal function to your upper back and neck. If underlying joint function is abnormal, exercising in this state may simply cause the muscles to adapt to the underlying dysfunction. (For more on this, read our stretching blog here.) This is why joint function must be restored first and foremost. Gentle stretches and exercises can then help relieve tension and strengthen the weaker muscles.

Here’s a video on our one simple way to improve your posture at the desk.

Begin with the chin tuck exercise. This ultimately counteracts forward head carriage.

chiropractor better posture poor posture upper crossed syndrome Upper crossed posture postural muscles chiropractic chiropractor stress muscle imbalance Janda postural control weak inhibited suboccipitals stress stressed kinematic neck weak headache migraine sitting desk Emsworth Chichester Portsmouth Southampton Havant Cosham Southsea
Source: http://www.orthoneurophysio.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/download-1.jpg
  • Stand upright with your back to wall.
  • Slightly tuck chin to chest and draw head back to wall.
  • The muscles in the front of the neck should be active when holding this position for 5-10 seconds.

You may feel some stretching of the scalene muscles on the side of the neck that go down to the collarbone. You may also notice the suboccipital muscles at the top of the neck and the base of the skull. This exercise begins to strengthen the muscles in the front of the neck and muscles of the upper back.

You can do this exercise lying down in bed, pushing back into a pillow. Once you get the hang of it, you can then do it standing upright. You’ll soon be able to do this whilst sitting in the car or at your desk at work. Repeating the exercise throughout the day will also help improve your posture over time.

Chiropractic care can help to restore normal joint movement and alleviate muscle stress. As part of your treatment programme, you’ll be given further specific exercises to help address muscle tension and restore joint function.

To book your appointment with our chiropractor, simply use the link below.

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Stretching won’t make your muscles stretchy

Stretching doesn’t work the way we think it does. At all. If you’ve ever spent your time gritting your teeth, pulling your arms or legs or (eek) neck into weird and wonderful positions to feel that pull, before noticing that a few hours later they’re back to where they were before, you’ll know that stretching doesn’t make your muscles stretchy. To understand why stretching isn’t the key to flexibility, we first have to understand a bit more about how and why our muscles stretch in the first place.

All humans have a reflex in our nervous system called the myotatic reflex. Believe it or not- you’ve probably had this tested without even knowing it. It’s the one we activate when we use a reflex hammer to hit just below your knee which makes your leg jump, or the one just above the elbow which does the same to your arm.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex
The C6/7 reflex

This reflex is the body’s pre-programmed response to a stretch stimulus in the muscle. When the muscle is stretched (as in when hit by the reflex hammer), an impulse is sent to the spinal cord to contract that muscle (and relax the muscle that works in opposition to it), causing the limb being tested to jump. These reflexes are what are called “monosynaptic” as there is only one junction for any signal to pass through before the body sends a response (the message going in->junction->message coming back happens in the spinal cord, bypassing the brain to make sure the response happens quickly) Think how rapidly your knee jumps when it’s hit by the reflex hammer- it’s usually just 1-2 milliseconds before the body responds.

We use these tests in clinic to check the integrity of your spinal cord and the peripheral nervous system, and they can be vital in helping us identify neuromuscular conditions. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. You might be wondering what purpose these reflexes have? Well, one of their most important functions is to prevent us from tearing our muscles/tendons/ligaments. Let’s look at the patella reflex to demonstrate this:

The patellar tendon is tapped just below the knee, which puts a rapid stretch into the tendon which attaches to your quadriceps muscle (the muscle in the front of your thigh). Muscle spindles (sensory receptors that pick up changes in the length of the muscle) pick up on this rapid increase in the length of the muscle, and very quickly send a message to contract your quadriceps in order to stop the muscle or tendon from over-stretching and causing damage. What happens when your quadricep contracts? Your lower leg comes flying up! If it doesn’t, it could indicate an underlying condition or disease affecting your muscles and nerves (which is why we always test them in clinic!)

What else do reflexes do? Well, they also stop us from falling over all the time. Stand up for a second. Now lean over. As far over to one side as you can go. What happens? The muscles on the opposite side to the lean become stretched, and that reflex is activated again, telling those muscles to contract in order to correct your posture and stop you toppling over. Now, this is a more obvious demonstration of how reflexes maintain our posture, and these postural corrections are generally carried out subconsciously (so we don’t spend all day feeling like we’re going to fall over!) It’s one of those things that we notice more when it stops working.

So what do reflexes have to do with stretching my tight muscles?

When we activate stretch receptors in the muscle, the message the body receives is to contract that muscle to prevent overstretch. So the usual static stretching that we do (for example when we bring our foot up behind us and grab on to it to stretch our quadriceps) puts our conscious and subconscious brain into war against each other. You’re consciously grabbing that foot to pull that muscle into a stretched position, and your stretch reflex (the subconscious brain) is automatically kicking in (as reflexes do) saying “No!” and tries to stop you from over-stretching and causing yourself an injury. What do we tend to do in this situation? Most people say “oooh that’s tight!” and promptly pull harder… Static stretching has actually been shown to decrease strength and athletic performance, while failing to reduce risk of injury to any significant degree.

Why does stretching feel so good then?

There are a few reasons why stretching might make you feel like you’re getting somewhere.

One: If you continually statically stretch your muscles, you can cause that stretch reflex to become less active. This can mean the muscles do lengthen, but only for a little while. Give it an hour or two for that reflex to go back to normal and the muscles will tighten back up again. This can cause problems for athletes- static stretching means the muscle is unable to contract properly because those muscle spindles aren’t functioning right. There’s plenty of research out there to show that static stretching before exercise can reduce your muscle strength, power, performance and joint stability.

Two: The more we stretch, the better we’re able to tolerate the sensation of “pulling” in our muscles. Yep, we’ve all said it “Ooooh, that’s a good stretch!” That temporary lengthening and release does feel good, but not for long.

Three: Pull a muscle or tendon enough, and you’ll begin to stretch your ligaments. Ligaments can, over time, then become stretched out to the point where they’re unable to function properly, resulting in joints that move too much, and are unstable. When ligaments get to this point, they might never regain their original length and strength.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex stretching
Someone tell him to stop…

Stretching- Will it get you out of pain?

In a nutshell, no. The nervous system rules the road. It’s totally in charge of everything that we do. If you’ve had treatment with me, you’ve probably heard me talk about the reasons why the brain can cause our joints to stiffen and feel like they’re “locked up”. It’s your brain’s way of stabilising an area that it perceives to be at risk of injury (whether that perception is founded in fact or fiction!) So on a very fundamental level, if your brain still perceives there’s an issue in that area, no amount of pulling on your muscles is going to change that. Equally,if the muscle is tight and sore because there’s a joint somewhere that’s misbehaving and preventing the muscle from functioning as it should, then stretching isn’t going to do much for that problem.

stretch muscle reflex stretchy injury knee pain relief chiropractic chiropractor education blog physiotherapy physiotherapist health rehabilitation painful sports injury training fitness emsworth chichester hampshire sussex stretching

The process that tells us how tense our muscles should be at rest (known as “resting muscle tone”) is called the alpha-gamma feedback loop and it’s a lot more intelligent than we give it credit for when we’re yanking on our body to get it to stretch. In order to reset an over-enthusiastic resting muscle tone, we need slow, controlled movement which provides vital sensory feedback, allowing this system to reset itself. This makes it fairly clear that pulling our muscles into, or beyond, their stretch capacity does little other than provide a temporary increase in muscle length which then rebounds when those muscle spindles reset, giving you little more than temporary relief from pain and probably serving to prolong your discomfort by making your muscles tighter overall.

So how do we make muscles stretchy without stretching?

First we have to look at what’s causing the muscle tension in the first place. Let’s look at the hip joint as an example. It’s got anywhere between 170 to 200 degrees of flexion and 40-60 degrees of extension, so is well over the 180 degrees needed to do the splits. So aside from structural changes in the hip joint, is mainly restriction in the soft tissues that stops most of us from being able to pop the splits whenever we fancy. No amount of stretching or “bouncing” into the splits is going to get you there- for whatever reason, the muscles you need to do the splits are activating way before their supposed maximum load and your brain is telling those muscle spindles to stop before you hurt yourself.

We have to stop thinking that we can teach our muscles anything. Our muscles don’t call the shots- our brain does. If a muscle gets tight, it’s because the brain is telling it to contract. So if stretching isn’t the answer, what is?

  1. Chiropractic care to correct the cause of the problem- We find, assess, diagnose and treat the underlying reason for the muscle tension. If you don’t know why they’re tight, how can you possibly get them better?
  2. Foam rolling. It’s not just rolling about on the floor (although that helps!) Foam rolling activates a different receptor in the muscle (called the Golgi Tendon Organs) which sit at the junction between your muscles and tendons. When we foam roller correctly, we stimulate these GTO’s which encourage the muscle spindle activity to calm down, helping to decrease muscle tension, reduce pain and improve function.
  3. Functional movement. Simply put, warm up based on movements you actually do in real life. How often do you actually grab your neck and pull it into a weird angle in real life? Not often. If you’re a runner, instead of doing straddle-stretches or the good old foot-behind-your-bum-and-pull stretch for the quads, try lunges, high knees and skipping instead to replicate the movement you’re going to do.

So there you have it. Stretching tight muscle tissue will only make it tighter. Find and correct the reason for the tension and enjoy super-supple muscles instead!

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New Year’s Resolution: Injury free for 2016

Here it is, the oh-so-predictable New Year’s Resolution post about a “New Year, New You.” We’re going to bypass that this year in favour of something far more important. Whilst New Year’s Resolutions which centre around going to the gym, getting fitter or putting more of an emphasis on our health are fantastic, we want you to spare a thought for your joints before you start a new exercise regime.  Search online for “getting fit quotes” and the words that pop up most frequently are “pain”, “hurt”, “sore”, “skinny” or “burn”.  Whilst some pain is normal and to be expected, this has given rise to a worrying influx in the number of sport-related injuries we’ve seen from athletes “training through the pain”.
Sports injury running health fitness exercise gym chiropractic Hampshire Havant Fareham Emsworth Sussex Chiropractic Chiropractor Physiotherapy physiotherapist
Most sporting injuries occur from what we call the Terrible Toos- doing too much, too soon. After not working out for months or years, people come in and try to run 5 miles or lift 200 lbs at their first session.  Their deconditioned, unprepared muscles can’t cope with the action and so injury occurs. We then have to recover from the injury by which point our motivation for our New Year’s resolution is gone.  You won’t become Batman (or Catwoman) in one workout session, so please please please train properly and spare a thought for injury prevention this year.

So how does injury occur?

Injury, particularly sports injury, occurs through direct or indirect trauma to muscles, ligaments, and joint capsules.  Injury takes two forms- direct and indirect. Direct trauma or injury occurs through blunt trauma or a sudden overload- so dropping a weight on your foot would be a direct trauma (HINT: Don’t do it!)

Indirect trauma or injury occurs from repeated submaximal loading.  (When we refer to joint loading, what we mean is the force that is put on a load-bearing or weight-bearing joint during exercise.) This could be therefore be repetitive injury to your elbows when lifting, or your knee when running. Indirect trauma can therefore occur through repetitive lifting of weights, running, or any activity that “loads” a joint.

Regardless of direct or indirect trauma, the end result is still the same- tissue dysfunction that is characterised through pain, inflammation, and internal tissue stress.  This can lead to what is known as “functional disability”, where you’re able to go about your day-to-day life largely without issue, but your training or exercise regime is impaired. Not what you want when you’re motivated to get to the gym!

Why does injury occur?

Whilst some sports injury occurs through direct trauma- such as a rugby tackle, overuse injuries are more common in sports than acute injuries. These are subtle and occur over time, hence why early detection and diagnosis is key. Faulty movement patterns, joint restriction or muscle dysfunction can be detected by your chiropractor which can help to identify those who are at risk of an overuse injury and provide advice on injury prevention, modification of exercises, adaptations to technique or treatment if appropriate.
Sports injury running health fitness exercise gym chiropractic Hampshire Havant Fareham Emsworth Sussex Chiropractic Chiropractor Physiotherapy physiotherapist

Researchers have reported that impact forces of up to 550% the normal force load are transmitted to our joints when running, with impact forces between 4 to 8 times higher than those during normal walking.  Much as you wouldn’t lift a heavy weight without putting some thought into it first (if you even decided to lift it at all!) we need to put some thought into how well equipped our bodies are to cope with these additional stresses and strains before we hit the gym. This is why launching into a fitness regime without putting some thought into how you’re going to do it and how you’re going to protect yourself whilst doing it can be crucial.

Coping with this degree of stress can be challenging enough even for joints that are well-adapted to this degree of stress, but if you are starting a new exercise regime or perhaps picking up a new activity, your joints need some time to adapt to the new activity. They also need to be ready and able to cope with this degree of stress. This is where chiropractic comes in.

How does chiropractic help?

Chiropractors are primary healthcare professionals who are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints and muscles), as well as the effects these can have on the nervous system and general health.

<a href="http://acornhealth.org.uk/?attachment_id=1174" rel="attachment wp-att-1174"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-1174" src="http://acornhealth.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/iStock_000047834800Large-1.jpg" alt="Sports injury running health fitness exercise gym chiropractic Hampshire Havant Fareham Emsworth Sussex Chiropractic Chiropractor Physiotherapy physiotherapist" width="2547" height="1930" /></a>
Philippa explaining Achilles tendonitis at a recent “Running without Pain” workshop at The Run Company, Chichester.

Chiropractors are often thought to only “crack backs” and only treat back pain.  Much like your GP wouldn’t prescribe the same pill for an ear infection as they would for high blood pressure, so a chiropractor doesn’t just perform spinal manipulation for a bad back.  It entirely depends on the nature of the injury, the level of pain, and most importantly, your personal preferences (it all comes down to teamwork!) Chiropractors have a vast array of treatment options they can offer and chiropractic care can be crucial in injury prevention because chiropractic emphasises the correct functioning of all joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments in your body to ensure you are performing at your very best. Whether you are an elite athlete, a gym newbie, or perhaps a keen sportsperson returning from injury, chiropractic can be crucial in identifying dysfunction prior to an injury occurring.

A crucial part of treatment at Acorn Health is helping you to develop a firm understanding of how your body works, how pain and problems can occur and how to prevent it.  We work with you to develop a new fitness routine and training programme with appropriate exercises that will enable you to strengthen and stabilise your joints whilst reducing your risk of picking up an injury.

So whilst you’re dusting off your trainers and wrangling your way into your sports kit, spare a thought for your joints, and spare a thought for injury prevention.

If you would like to receive our “Injury for Runners” resource, detailing the most common types of running injuries, the mechanism of injury, preventative measures and more useful information, please complete your details below.

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References:

Kessler MA, et al.: Volume Changes in the Menisci and Articular Cartilage of Runners An In Vivo Investigation Based on 3-D Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Am J Sports Med May 2006 34:832-836.

Kessler MA, et al.: Recovery of the Menisci and Articular Cartilage of Runners After Cessation of Exercise Additional Aspects of In Vivo Investigation Based on 3-Dimensional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Am J Sports Med May 2008 36:966-970.

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