I was a practicing chiropractor for 17 years and the primary focus of my practice, after relieving the pain with which the patient came to my clinic, was posture correction. Relieving pain was one thing, but correcting underlying muscular imbalances, which often were the root of musculoskeletal pain presentations, was quite another.
Often, a chiropractor (or any manual therapist) can relieve musculoskeletal pain within 1-5 visits. However, I found in examination that muscles imbalances were aplenty in most folks. You’ve probably heard of some of them or even currently experience them, like tight hamstrings, weak abs, slouched shoulders, and/or tight neck & shoulders. Sound familiar? It does for most folks.
Well, needless to say, these problems are not all that easy to correct, even if the pain goes away promptly after treatment. But, if these underlying postural issues are not addressed, the pain presentation will recur…over and over.
In the 1980’s, a Czech therapist by the name of Vladimir Yanda coined two parts of a postural imbalance, which he found to be common in most of his patients, as Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) and Lower Crossed Syndrome (LCS). He found that his pain patients presented with a combination of tight muscles and weak muscles. These weak and tight muscles were common in most of his symptomatic patients. In other words, he saw the same imbalances over and over in his patients. Let me explain these to you in some understandable detail.
Upper Crossed Syndrome
Mr. Yanda found that there was a criss-cross of muscle imbalances from front to back. He called the tight muscles “facilitated” and the weak muscles “inhibited”. He noticed that his patients had weak or inhibited deep neck flexors, lower trap muscles, and serratus anterior muscles. He also found that these same patients presented with tight or facilitated SCM, pectoralis muscles, upper trap, and levator scapulae muscles. A patient with UCS would typically present with forward head carriage and rounded & slouched shoulders (sound familiar?). Now, take a look at the image below and see the orientation of the weak and tight muscles:
Do you see why it is called Upper “Crossed” Syndrome. This pattern of muscle imbalance with associated postural presentation is seen over and over again in patients.
Lower Crossed Syndrome
There is a similar criss-cross muscle pattern in the lower portion of the body, known as Lower Crossed Syndrome. In this pattern, the weak or inhibited muscles are the abdominal and gluteal maximus muscles while the tight or facilitated muscles are the iliopsoas and erector spinae muscles. A patient with LCS could present with forward hip shift, with a somewhat protruding belly, and possibly a forward arched low back. Look at the image below to see the orientation of the imbalanced muscles:
Again, you can see the criss-cross pattern of the affected muscles. Here is another picture detailing. both the UCS and LCS in the same image:
Treatment of UCS and LCS
Fixing postural imbalances takes a fair bit of work. The weak/inhibited muscles need to be activated and strengthened. The tight/facilitated muscles need to be stretched and relaxed. This takes days and days, even months and months, of stretching and strengthening exercises. It is not a quick fix and certainly not corrected with jogging, weight lifting, or playing a sports alone. Nor is it fixed with one or two treatments by a chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist. This takes some concerted, specific, and focused muscle stretching & strengthening, maybe even with the assistance of a trained manual therapist (as mentioned above).
Massage Chairs and Posture
So, after all this, is it safe to say that a massage chair actually correct your imbalanced posture? Although some chairs claim “posture correction” as one of their benefits, my years of experience as a chiropractor AND as a massage chair salesman tell me that a massage chair alone cannot fix your posture. Of course, you can and most likely will feel like you are standing taller and straighter after a session in your massage chair, but that feeling is only temporary since correction cannot be made so quickly. Whatever you feel, in terms of standing taller and straighter, will quickly disappear after your massage session has ended.
On a more positive note, although a massage chair will not correct your posture, I am a firm believer that it will help with a postural correction regimen. The rollers of the chair will relax tightened back muscles like the erector spinae and the levator scapulae, which will help in a regular stretching program. The rollers may also assist in activating the inhibited or weak muscles, like the lower traps and the gluteus maximus. Other than that, it will still feel great to sit on your massage chair after your daily postural correction stretch and strengthen routine!
Dr. Alan Weidner
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