Do you have a good posture? Lower cross syndrome is a common postural problem which can lead to the development of low back and pelvis pain that may have been avoided by following a few simple tips and exercises. We have noticed an increase in this presentation over the last few years, especially in those that are office workers, so we thought it was time to write a short post on this common postural syndrome.
What is Lower Cross Syndrome?
It is a pelvic muscular imbalance which results in typical postural changes. The most common of which are:
- Increased lumbar lordosis (low back curve)
- Protruding abdomen
- Anterior pelvic tilt (flexed hips)
- Flattened buttocks
What causes it?
Lower cross syndrome can develop from prolonged sitting. In this position the rectus femoris, lumbar errector spinae and hip flexor muscles are short and tight, so maintaining this position for long periods of time results in permanent shortening of these musculature which in turn causes the characteristic exaggerated lumbar lordosis and pelvic tilt. This is not the end of the story however because tightness in one area of the body can result in predictable weaknesses in other areas. This happens because the body acts like a series of pulleys and levers, when you shorten one muscle its opposite muscle lengthens i.e. when you bend your elbow the biceps shortens and the triceps lengthen to allow a smooth movement, this is phenomenon is known as reciprocal inhibition. If this occurs over a long period of time the lengthened muscle becomes inhibited and therefore weakness develops. Thus in the case of lower cross syndrome the abdominal and gluteal muscles which are the pairs to the hip flexor and lumbar erector spinae muscles are stretched, inhibited and weakened resulting in a protruding abdomen and flattened buttocks.
How does it cause low back problems?
This pattern of muscular imbalance results in a weakened core and altered biomechanics (movement patterns) of the lumbar facet joints (joints in the low back) pelvis and hips and interferes with muscular firing patterns. Therefore the back is weaker than is ideal and the body is moving in unorganised and foreign patterns both of which result in an increased risk of developing dysfunction and or injury and thus pain.
What can you do about it?
If you think that you may have a lower cross posture it is advisable to consult a fully trained musculoskeletal specialist (chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist) who will be able to advise you on your individual presentation and the best course of action whether it be a few simple exercises or a combination of treatment and exercise prescription to help try and prevent pain and/or dysfunction either developing or progressing. Below are a few suggested exercises and ergonomic advice which you can apply to your everyday life. Please do consult a health professional before attempting to carry out any of the exercises described to determine if it is safe for you to do these.
- Try not to sit down for longer than 30 minutes at a time, just getting up and moving around for 30 seconds will help reduce the tension building up.
- When sitting in a chair our knees should be just below your hip level so as to reduce the tension in the hip flexor musculature.
- Lumbar erector spinae stretch: Lie on your back with your left leg out straight, your right leg bent and crossed over your left. Slowly use your left arm against your right crossed leg to apply pressure to the point of tension. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with your other leg.
- Hip flexor stretch Kneel on your right knee stepping your left leg forward. Slowly lunge your body forward until you can feel the stretch in the front of your right hip. Take care not to allow our left knee to protrude. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat the stretch on the other side.
- Plank: Position your body with your toes and elbows on the mat. Ensure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your body is in a straight line. Retract your shoulders away from your ears and hold this position for 15 seconds, gradually building up this time the more you do it.
- Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip width apart. Slowly peel your spine off the floor until your hips are in line with your knees. Reverse this movement slowly lowering your back onto the mat. Start off with 3 sets of 10 and then increase this slowly.