Lower Cross Syndrome
Due to the sedentary lifestyle a lot of us are adopting today, lower cross syndrome has become more and more common. These days, most people have some degree of contracture or tightening in their hips due to constant sitting. The condition of lower cross syndrome was first described by Czech physician Vladimir Janda.
What is it?
Janda noticed that in some people, the front of the hip (the hip flexors) were very tight while their antagonist muscles (the hip extensors) were elongated and weak. He stated that this was as a result of a neurological phenomenon known as reciprocal inhibition. This means, activation of one muscle causes the inhibition of the opposite muscles, in this case overactive hip flexors results in underactive hamstrings.
Lower cross syndrome is characterised by specific patterns of muscle weakness and tightness that cross between the front and back of the body.
Tightness of the thoracolumbar extensors (lower back muscles) crossing with tightness of the iliopsaos and rectus femoris (the hip flexor muscles; your front leg muscles) at the front.
Weakness of the deep abdominal muscles crossing with weakness of the glutes at the back.
In this condition, you may see the following:
Increased curve in the lower back (hyperlordosis)
Anterior pelvic tilt (forward tiles of the pelvis)
Tight hip flexors
Weak abdominals and glutes
What can be done to treat it?
The initial treatment of this condition is not strengthening. This is often a mistake some people make when trying to address the weak or underactive muscles they have associated with lower cross syndrome. strengthening immediately will most likely cause more tightness which will result in more pronounced weakness.
When treating patients, the shortened muscles such as the hip flexors and the lower back muscles, must be restored before embarking on training or strengthening the weakened muscles such as the abdominals and glutes.
The concept of lower cross syndrome is also applicable to the upper body, in this instance it is called upper cross syndrome. This condition will be discussed in another post.