Lower Cross Syndrome
By Steph (RMT) at Yoga Sol
Do you find yourself getting lower back pain? Have trouble engaging your abdominal muscles during exercise? Or perhaps your quads or hip flexors are always tight and interfere during a good workout session. Today we are going to explore Lower Cross Syndrome and how it can affect the body.
When we are presenting with Lower Cross Syndrome our muscles are going into states of stretch/weakness and tightness/contraction. The image below helps demonstrate this beautifully.
Typical physical traits of those who are in a posture of Lower Cross Syndrome present as:
• Hyper Lordosis of the Lumbar spine (increased curve in the lower spine)
• Anterior tilting of the pelvis (forward pelvic tilt)
Having a hyper lordosis in the lumbar spine simply means: that the natural curvature (called lordosis) of the lumbar spine (lower back) is exacerbated. If you present with this you will likely find when you are laying on your back you can fit your hand/arm easily under your lower back as it’s not in contact with the floor.
So how can this create pain and dysfunction?
Our postural muscles in our lower back and hips play a large role in Lower Cross Syndrome. When they go into tightness /contraction they can cause our pelvis to tilt forward and can result in a hyper lordosis of the lumbar spine.
Furthermore, when a muscle group is in tightness/contraction its opposite muscle group that it works with goes into stretch/weakness. In the case of Lower Cross this is typically your abdominal, glute and hamstring muscles.
When our muscles are in states of tightness/contraction and stretch/weakness we typically start seeing irregular movement patterns, or compensating occurring in the body. When our joints are moving or even stationary in an incorrect position usually the first sign of this dysfunction is muscle or joint pain.
Being in this anatomical state long term can create problems such as:
• Hypertonic muscles causing pain (particularly lower back and hip)
• Muscle spasms
• Disk herniation (bulging disk), disk degeneration, bone spurs on the
vertebrae, facet joint irritation
• Hip internal rotation resulting in hip pain
• Knee & ankle pain usually due to hip internal rotation
• Irregular movement patterns which can lead to pain elsewhere in the body
(shoulder and neck pain)
• Being prone to injury
While we are not perfectly symmetrical anatomically, our body likes to be as close to it as possible. As massage therapists we are trained to recognise dysfunctions such as Lower Cross Syndrome and help you get out of pain.
In terms of treating and correcting Lower Cross Syndrome, this is an individual process for everyone. However, it’s usually a case of performing remedial massage techniques to reduce the muscle tension, which will also help give you the ability to perform the prescribed exercises we give you. The combination of remedial massage and tailored exercises is typically the most effective combination of overcoming pain and dysfunction from Lower Cross Syndrome.
How Massage Helps Pain: The Science Behind “Pain Gate Theory”
By Steph (RMT)
Most of us have experienced a remedial or relaxation massage at some point in our lives. After our session we get up off the table feeling relaxed and thankfully find a reduction in pain. While massage therapist love hearing our clients say we have “magic hands” there is a science behind why massage can be effective for pain relief. To understand this first we must explore our nervous system.
Our nervous system is vast and complex but we’re all familiar with the basics of it being made up of our brain, spinal cord and nerves. This is known as the Central Nervous System (CNS). It’s job is to communicate with the body so we can walk, talk and feel pain. It does this through the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS). Cool! So what’s this got to do with massage? Well, to understand how massage helps with pain, first we must understand how our body communicates.
Our nerves are made of cells called neurons that are responsible for carrying messages from one part of the body to another. This includes the brain telling our arms and legs to move as well as pain signals when we injure ourselves or when we have a pesky muscle that’s aching. Each of these neurons (cells) in the brain have the ability to communicate to each other.
The nerve cells (neurons) communicate through a process of synapses where neurotransmitters are sent between cells to relay information (electrical impulses). It’s through this process that we are able to move, and also how we feel pain. The efficiency and speed of information being sent from one cell to another is influenced by the cells insulation (myelin sheath). The pain signals we experience are sent through uninsulated cells and as a result information is sent slowly.
When we massage the body we are inputting stimulus to the nervous system in the form of touch. This sensory input is received by neurons that are insulated and send information more rapidly unlike those that transmit pain. It is theorised in the Pain Gate Theory that it is because the sensory input from massage travels faster than the pain signal, it reaches the brain first closing the gate to the pain message. Pretty cool right!
This is also why when we use heat packs, ice packs or TENS machines we find a reduction or elimination of muscular pain. Think back to the times you may have banged your shin or elbow into something and instinctively started rubbing it as it helps with the pain. It was through that sensory input from rubbing your skin you were able to help switch off the pain signals.
There are other theories as to how the Pain Gate works and how massage, meditation, breath work and yoga can be effective for pain. But for today we will stick with this side of the evidence so we don’t end up with a headache and need a massage!