The two most common postural problems

I was surprised when an Anatomy website I follow posted a picture about Upper and Lower Cross Syndromes and people were really shocked by that information. This website is full of people that know their anatomy, but apparently they don’t know the connections of individual parts so well. That is why I wanted to briefly explain this topic that, despite its simpleness, is highly useful.

Upper and Lower Cross Syndromes

What they are: Simple illustrations created by doctor Vladimir Janda about common postural faults. They also show how muscle imbalances in the shoulder and hip area tend to work in a zig zag motion.

Upper Cross Syndrome

fig04_02a.jpg
Upper Cross Syndrome

Causes: Poor postural habits, bad exercise programs, watching at a computer screen all day, and many others, like being depressed. It usually starts with the pectorals being tight, which lengthens an upper back that is not strong enough to resist it. This brings the neck forwards and downwards, but the eyes have to keep in line with the horizon, so the body in turn lengthens the anterior part of the neck (the front part) and that shortens the posterior part of the neck.

Effects: A forward head posture, rolled shoulders, a hunchback, upper back and neck pain, and other compensations through the body (see Lower Cross Syndrome).

Solution: Stretch the muscles that are tight, strengthen those that are weak. Depending on the gravity of the posture many more things will have to be done, but that is the basic approach.

Variances: The Upper Cross Syndrome can roughly be in two ways:

-The first one is how the picture shows and that is the most common one. Muscles that are weak and long in here are the Deep cervical flexors and the Rhomboids, and muscles that are short and tight are the Pectorals and Cervical extensors. Many others might be down on the body.

-The other one is the contrary of the picture, a more uncommon one where the head is actually tilted backwards and is glued to the body in whats called a military type posture. Muscles that are weak and long here are the Pectorals and Cervical extensors, and muscles that are short and tight are the Deep cervical flexors and the Rhomboids.

Lower Cross Syndrome

fig04_03a.jpg
Lower Cross Syndrome

Causes: Poor postural habits, bad exercise programs, watching at a computer screen all day, and many others, like eating foods that we are intolerant to. Normally the semi flexed position of sitting tightens our hip flexors, which tilts our pelvis forwards and lengthens our abdominals. The Glutes follow with being lengthen and weaken and the Lower back becomes chronically tight.

Effects: An anterior pelvic tilt, where the butts sticks out and up and shortens the spine. This is usually coupled with a forward head posture (Upper Cross Syndrome) and causes fatigue, lower back pain, the center of gravity moving forwards and other compensations though the body (like caved-in or hyperextended knees, or pronated feet).

Solution: Stretch the muscles that are tight, strengthen those that are weak. Depending on the gravity of the posture many more things will have to be done, but that is the basic approach.

Variances: The Lower Cross Syndrome can roughly be in two ways:

-The first one is how the picture shows and that is the most common one. Muscles that are weak and long in here are the Abdominals (Transverse abdominis) and the Glutes, and muscles that are short and tight are the hip flexors and Lower back (hip extensors). Many others might be up or down on the body.

-The other one is the contrary of the picture, a more uncommon one where the pelvis is actually tilted inwards and the body acquires a C type shape, called posterior pelvic tilt. Muscles that are weak and long here are the Hip flexors and Lower back, and muscles that are short and tight are the Abdominals and Glutes.

This is a compilation of some stretches and strengthening exercises for the most common variations of these syndromes.


That’s it! I hope this simple but really useful information can empower you to work on any postural problems that you have. It might not be the cure to all problems, as the compensations are long and there are also problems like rotations or asymmetries, but it really addresses the most common problems out there. Let me know how you do with this.


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