- BLOG -
What is Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS)?
Upper crossed syndrome is identified as an imbalance between the anterior (front) and posterior (back) muscles of the upper body causing a postural misalignment. The syndrome presents in a forward head carriage, rounded shoulders and a hunching of the upper back.
If we were to put this into a diagram, it becomes easy to see why this presentation is called “upper crossed” as the muscles affected are opposite each other in a cross pattern.
Specifically we’re talking about a tightness through the:
The overuse of these muscles causes an inhibition in the muscles opposite - these are supposed to be supporting the body into an upright position. They become long and weak.
Who does UCS affect?
UCS presents most commonly in desk workers because they are in a constant “crossed” posture at the computer all day.
Couriers and truck drivers are also common patients for the same reason.
Cyclists are at an obvious disadvantage also, being in an aggressive hunched position when riding.
Or “knots” in the shoulders and chest due to constant stress being put on the muscles.
Referral pain from these trigger points in the shoulders and neck can present as a tension headache.
Reduced lung capacity:
Rounding of the shoulders and a hunching of the back means that the diaphragm and lungs are unable to expand to their full capacity, making it hard to take a deep breath and get enough oxygen to muscles during exercise.
Nerve and vascular impingement and compression:
Rounding of the shoulders and tension through the neck compresses nerves and blood vessels in the area, causing numbness and tingling in the arms, wrist and fingers and restricting blood flow.
How to fix it:
The aim of treatment is treat the tight muscles through soft tissue therapy and strengthen the inactive muscles to improve posture and regain range of motion.
These counteract a forward head position.
Stand upright with back to wall. Slightly tuck chin to chest and draw head back to wall. The muscles in the front of the neck should be active while holding this position for a set duration.
Relaxing the shoulders so they are not hiked up, squeeze the shoulder blades in a "back and down" motion, like a diamond pattern to activate the rhomboids and lower trapezius.
Foam Roller Thoracic Extension:
This improves extension and rotation in the thoracic spine, counteracting the hunched position. Weight of head is supported by hands while arching over the roller.
Works on improving the range of motion through the pectoralis (chest) muscles. Place inside of elbow against a wall and rotate body away from anchor point until a stretch is felt across chest. Repeat on opposing side.
Gently lower the left ear to left shoulder until a stretch is felt across the right upper trapezius. Use left hand (as shown in the image) to increase stretch further.
Looking straight ahead, rotate the head by 45° and then tuck chin to chest. The free hand can be placed on the back of head to gently pull down, increasing the stretch further.
Types of Pain
We’ve all heard the saying, “No pain, no gain” but how true is it?
Do you really have to push yourself to your absolute limit during training so that you’re close to injury or ask your massage therapist to go as hard as they can before you achieve any results?
The simple answer is no.
But there can be a way to use “pain” to your advantage and still see gains.
Types of Pain:
When we think about pain, we generally think of it as a negative thing. This is true the majority of the time, but there are many different types of pain, both “bad” and “good”.
“Bad” pain can be described as:
- Acute, sharp, dull, aching, stabbing, shooting, electrical, cramping, deep, throbbing, pinching, hot, constant or pressure
- Heavy and aching muscles after exercise
- An overly sensitive or tender area during a massage that does not improve as the treatment goes on
“Good” pain can be described as:
- Feeling your muscles working during exercise: Warmth, stretching, strength, power and performance
- Having tender areas treated during a massage and feeling them release
- Slight ache post-exercise
The purpose of pain is to tell you that something is happening in your body, whether it be good or bad. It’s vital to listen to this feedback system for self-preservation or self-motivation.
“Feedback pain” presents in the form of an adaptation. It reflects a positive change in the body and is a part of the body’s adaptation to activity or physical load. Eg. Learning how to cope when performing something new.
You can use this “pain” to your advantage to see results in your training. Tuning in to this helps you understand what is happening to your brain and body and you can set a benchmark of your current ability and a goal to work towards.
Take for example powerlifting.
When you first learn how to lift a heavy weight, you can experience a dizzy feeling afterwards. Although this may be uncomfortable for a few seconds and present itself as “pain” or a lack of nutrition or hydration, it’s actually your body giving you feedback that you’re doing it right!
This dizzy feeling is your brain telling you that it’s receiving information loud and clear and is processing it as fast as possible. It’s your whole system resetting itself and allowing the new stimulus to be received so that you learn the new pattern of how to lift the weight. The more you do it, the faster the information is processed and the more natural the pattern becomes, reducing the feeling of dizziness.
The same concept applies to something as simple as increasing the weight when performing a bicep curl. You can feel the slight burn of exertion, but you’re not really in “pain” or at risk of injury. You can feel that you can lift the weight, so this is your new benchmark. Once you get used to this weight, you can increase it again to your next goal weight.
This same concept can equally be applied to setting and achieving power or time based goals on your bike - whether they be during intervals on your trainer or up for favourite climb!
So when you’re exercising, you need to consider what your training goals are and what type of pain you’re experiencing. Is it good, bad or feedback? This will help you determine if you are safe to continue, need to stop immediately to avoid injury, or use the information your body is giving you to set a benchmark and work towards your goals.
Whether you’re in the gym, training for an event, spend 90% of your time staring at a computer screen or you're stressed out, we know that it's important to take some time out of our busy day to seek physical therapy to keep us feeling at our best. But sometimes we just don’t have the time to book an appointment to see a therapist to work out all the knots. Plus, it can get pricey. So what can you do when you can’t make regular visits to your clinic?
ere are 5 DIY ways to treat yourself!
1. Foam roller
Foam rollers are magical! They’re super versatile and easy to use on numerous muscle groups, the most common being the back, quads, hamstrings and calves. Keep in mind that this a slow, stretching process.
Lay on the roller, knees bent. Starting at your lower back, slowly roll back and forth and make your way up to the mid back and neck area. If you find you're really locked up in a particular area, don’t be afraid to hang out there and let it release.
You can also turn the roller vertically and lay with it running up and down your spine. Open your arms out and feel the stretch in your pecs!
Hamstrings and Calves:
Rolling one leg at a time, start by placing the roller at the top of the muscle. Walk yourself backwards and forwards on your hands to move the roller up and down your leg. Shift your weight to either side to target different muscles.
Turn over into a push up or plank position and again place the roller at the top of the quads. Walking on your hands, rock the foam roller up and down your quads. Again, shift your weight to target inside, mid and outside of the area.
2. Spikey ball
Spikey balls are great for getting in deeper and more direct on to trigger points (hypertonic or 'tight' bands of muscle, or, ‘knots’). On the ground, simply find the tight spot, place the ball under your body and use your weight to deliver pressure to the area. Sustained pressure over a short time disperses the tension and the muscle begins to relax. You can also roll on the ball to target a larger area with many trigger points. Great for glutes.
Pocketphysio’s are brilliant for getting even deeper and more direct on to that one point that you just can’t reach! As with a spikey ball, just find the trigger point and use your body weight to apply pressure. This also works well if you stand up and place it against a wall. You can really get in to the shoulder blade and neck area! You can use these tools for anywhere up to 10 mins on just the one spot. Everyone reacts differently to treatment, so a trigger point that takes 5 minutes to release for me, may only take 30 seconds for you, listen to your body!
4. Heat and Ice
Excluding acute injuries, heat or ice can be used at any time to decrease pain and tension. This can be in the form of heat/ice pack or creams/sprays. What to use is really a case of personal preference. Some people prefer the soothing qualities of heat to loosen up a tight area for pain relief, while others respond better to the pain inhibiting qualities of ice.
5. Thrifty Therapist:
While all of these tools are great for self-treating, you might not have them when you need them. But there are some substitutes!
Laying on two towels rolled up inside each other may give a gentle stretch of the back, or you can try lying on a Swisse exercise ball.
Don’t have a spikey ball? Try a cricket, lacrosse or baseball or if you’re really clever, tape together two tennis balls side by side and place either side of your spine to get a deeper treatment.
One of my personal favourites is to lean against the corner of a table or wall to treat! Awesome for glutes, lower back, mid back and shoulder blade areas.
Use a golf ball to massage your feet after a long day. Just sit on the couch with the ball on the floor and roll away! This also loosens up your calves and hamstrings as they’re all connected, so two birds with one ball!
What is prehab?
Prehabilitation or ‘prehab’ is the notion of taking a proactive approach to training to avoid pain and injury. The aim is to perform sport-specific exercises outside of your normal training regime to build strength and stability around the most vulnerable areas of the body whilst improving mobility, balance, stability, joint function and symmetry to decrease the potential for injury.
Of course, skills are important in your chosen sport, but if you are pre-disposed to injury through lack of preparation through prehab, you might find yourself on the sideline sooner than you would like!
Prehab also encompasses regular manual therapy. This is so important to keep muscles and joints working efficiently and to avoid imbalances. Manual therapy includes having regular massage treatment, stretching and self-treatment such as foam rolling and trigger point therapy.
Prehab is especially important pre-surgery. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done through injury, but if done correctly, completing a proper prehabilitation program greatly reduces the rehabilitation time after surgery to regain full function and strength.
Take for example an ACL injury.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament of the knee (which stops hyperextension) has been completely ruptured during sport and surgery is required to repair it.
As soon as the knee is compromised, the surrounding muscles are put under even more stress to perform and often cannot cope with this extra workload. The quad and gluteal muscles switch off, causing instability of an already unstable knee joint. Therefore, the hamstrings need to take over and do triple the work – causing muscular imbalance, overload and tension.
If this continues, there is a large amount of muscle atrophy (‘wasting’) around the knee, so the aim of prehab is to get the knee back in to a stable condition before surgery. We need to have the glutes and quads firing again and increasing strength to support the knee. In doing this, by the time it comes to surgery you’ve had the best head start possible and have a base level of strength to start your rehabilitation post-surgery.
Your overall bike fit becomes a part of your prehab. If you are set up incorrectly, it can cause muscular imbalances, joint tracking issues and pain by forcing your body to maintain unnatural angles and positions. By addressing these issues in our Fit Studio and following up with assessment, treatment and undergoing a prehabilitation program in our Clinic, you can maintain strength, flexibility and stability, improve your endurance and decrease your risk of injury.
I get asked this all the time! And it stands to reason. Sports Therapy is still a relatively new and exciting developing industry in Australia behind the UK, US and Canada.
Sports Therapists are highly educated to deal with musculoskeletal disorders, treating pain and injury through hands-on treatment modalities, rehabilitation and patient education. Therapists focus on restoring, maintaining and maximising functional movement, that is, assessing how the body currently moves and retraining the client's body to move how it was designed to. In doing this, the client's pain can be relieved and their quality of life increased.
Sports Therapists are able to work in numerous settings including private practices, sporting clubs, both amateur and elite, gyms and fitness centres and even hospitals.
We aim to delve deeper through rigorous testing and screening to discover the source of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms. This can be a really eye opening process!
Having a strong core helps cyclists to transfer more power to the pedals by providing a solid platform for the lower body to push against. Without it, power is dissipated elsewhere.
Core strengthening exercises aim to target the smaller, deep intrinsic muscles of the abdomen and spine that help to stabilise the region, taking pressure off the larger muscle groups that tend to take over and fatigue quickly. This promotes a more balanced and efficient use of the body, supporting you through those long rides.
Popular forms of core training you can try are TRX, CXWORX, Body Attack, using rollers, Pilates and Barre.
An avenue that we have recently been investigating is Keiser, a treatment program that targets specific muscle groups to stabilise and strengthen, increase function and decrease pain.
Relationship between road fitness, core strength and the risk of injury.
It's important to choose a type of core training that is measurable and you can increase in intensity in addition to your cycling training. As show in the graph, If core strength plateaus and declines as a result of under loading or loss of interest from not seeing results while your road fitness continues to increase, the risk of injury due to core instability increases dramatically.
When cycling, a lot of pressure is put through the wrist and hands. A common problem is tingling and numbness in the hands and fingers, particularly the ring and little finger.
This is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve, either at the lateral aspect (outside) of the elbow, but more common in cycling, at the wrist.
The ulnar originates from the cervical (neck) region and travels down the arm along the outside of the elbow and provides sensation to the outside of the palm, half of the ring finger and all of the little finger.
In terms of treatment, regular stretching and massage of the forearms, hands and especially the upper shoulders and neck can alleviate the problem.
Specialized have also created a range of gloves to combat this problem too! Padding placement has been adapted to ease pressure on the palm area and therefore relieve pressure on the ulnar nerve.
If your Bike Setup is not correct, your riding position may also cause you to put excess pressure on your wrists so it's beneficial to get your Bike Fit assessed!
Drop in to check out of range of Sport, Grail and Trident gloves or book yourself in for a fit assessment and massage treatment to stop numb hands!
A tight ITB can cause knee pain, hip problems, patella tracking issues and, in some cases, lead to ITB Syndrome. So many of us try to stretch it out by foam rolling. We know it hurts! But does it work?
The ITB, or Illiotibial band is the thick connective tissue (fascia) that runs from the front of your hip all the way down the outside of your thigh and attaches to the bottom of the femur and the kneecap. Being connective tissue, it does not have any elastic properties and has little blood supply.
This means that foam rolling, stretching and massage directly to the tendon is going to do very little to influence it's length.
A better alternative is to treat the muscles that the ITB attaches to. These include the quads, hamstrings, tensor fascia latae (TFL) and gluteal muscles through foam rolling, trigger point therapy and massage techniques.
These muscles are vascular rich and elastic, therefore they do respond to treatment. By relieving tension, strengthening these muscle group and improving hip biomechanics, stress on the ITB is decreased and pain and tightness is therefore reduced.
Cycling is a unilateral movement, meaning that you are constantly alternating using one side of the body. This means that the opposite side need to be strong and provide a stable base so that the side you are using can transfer maximum power.
Test your stability!
Try standing on one leg. What's happening? Are you able to hold it for 15 seconds easily or are you hopping around the room? Are the muscles in your feet activating like crazy to keep you stable?
When you're doing the dishes, throw a tea towel on the floor and begin to scrunch it with your toes. Repeat 10 times slowly on each foot. Relax and repeat until you finish the dishes!
The scrunching action activates the plantar fascia (that is, the connective tissue that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot) and other intrinsic foot, lower leg and lower body muscles that are responsible for power and stability when you move. Strengthen these and you improve your stability and performance!
In conjunction with a great hydration plan, keeping on top of your nutrition can make a huge difference in your performance and endurance, so it’s worth considering adding some nutrition products into your current event plan.
At The Cycling Fix, we stock a wide range of Science in Sport nutrition products to keep you firing on all cyclinders!
Our body needs fuel to function when we exercise. This comes from 3 stores: Carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Different portions of these fuels are used depending on the type and duration of exercise that you’re doing. SIS products are carbohydrate based and designed for high intensity activity.
Carbohydrates are the main fuel source needed to perform high intensity activity. When we ingest carbohydrates, they are broken down and stored in the liver as glycogen. During exercise, this fuel is broken down further into glucose and transported to the muscles to be used as energy.
When glycogen stores are depleted, your performance decreases as the muscles aren’t getting the fuel they need, making them feel weak and heavy. Commonly referred to as "hitting the wall!"
To combat this, SIS have come up with a range of products to keep you going strong!
SIS GO ISOTONIC ENERGY GELS
These isotonic energy gels are awesome for a quick energy hit. They contain 22g of carbohydrates per serve (60ml) and are to be consumed during high intensity exercise. The great thing about these gels is that you don’t need to have them with water and they’re super easy to digest! No bloated feeling!
SIS ENERGY + CAFFEINE
As the name suggests, these gels also contain 75mg of caffeine for an extra boost, plus 22g of carbs.
Again, consumed during exercise, sans water!
SIS GO ENERGY + ELECTROLYTE
These gels are a double whammy! They contain carbs and electrolytes to enhance hydration by aiding the body’s ability to absorb water and help you to maintain performance.
Consume during exercise, but need to be taken with water. Also use in conjunction with 2 ISOTONIC gels.
SIS GO ENERGY DRINK
This powdered formula contains a massive 47g of carbs per serve (50g).
Mix with 500ml of water and consume before your event for low bulk, high carb loading. It’s also great post exercise for re-fuelling.
SIS GO HYDRO
These little babies do it all! Each tube contains 20 fizzy dissolvable tablets, 0.9g carbs. Mix with 500ml water and consume before and during exercise to replace depleted sodium and electrolyte stores, plus rehydrating.
SIS GO ENERGY BAR
Peckish? SIS Go Energy Bars contain 25g carbs per 40g serve. Made with wholesome ingredients, they’re easy to digest and are great for before or during events, or a quick carb loading snack between meals.
All of these products come in heaps of great flavours that aren’t too intense. SIS also offer handy 3 and 4 hour packs that do all the thinking for you if you have a longer event coming up, including a 500ml water bottle.They also have variety packs for gels and bars so you can try them all!
We have some great bulk buy discount prices on SIS products so you can mix and match to suit yourself.
Fuel your body the right way for greater performance and maybe even gain that edge over your competition. Incorporate nutrition in to your event plan and feel the difference!
Upper Crossed Syndrome
No Pain, No Gain?
5 Types of Self Massage Treatment
Prehab: Training before your training
So, What is a Sports Therapist anyway?
Importance of Core Strength in Cycling
Foam Rolling your ITB
How Does Doing the Dishes Improve Your Cycling?
Sports Nutrition: Getting an edge the right way
Hydration in Sport: Part 2
Hydration in Sport: Part 1
Back to Basics: Benefits of a Warm up and Cool down