The suboccipital muscles are a muscle group that is commonly tight when one holds improper posture with the head and neck. Most of the time when one sits at a computer or looks at a phone for a long period of time, the head and neck protrude forward and the chin tilts upward a bit. This position contracts the suboccipital muscle group. When this contraction is held for more than 8 seconds, it cuts off some blood supply to the muscles which over time will cause the muscles to harden and possibly calcify in the long term. We can prevent this by keeping our head and neck back or simply being mindful of not protruding it forward when we sit. But if this improper posture is commonly held, then we would want to stretch the suboccipitals by retracting the head and tucking the chin into the adams apple area of the neck. Only hold this stretch for about 5 seconds and then while at the peak of the stretch, use the hand to push from front to back on the forehead while pushing the forehead into the hand with about 20% of the muscle capacity for about 5 seconds. This stretch can make one sore so be sure to start off only doing 5 reps and 2 sets daily and slowly increase it to 10 reps and 3 sets daily over the course of several weeks.
The pectoralis major muscles become very tight when we repetitively use the improper posture of sitting hunched over while working on the computer, phone, or reading. The muscle develops trigger points which present as tender lumps in the muscle belly. One can reduce a trigger point by using a lacrosse ball or therapy ball to put pressure between the trigger point and the wall while maintaining pressure, incorporating small movements over the area, or pinning the trigger point and moving the muscle through the full range of motion. This is a great way to reduce tightness in the muscle and improve Upper Cross Syndrome.
Upper Cross Syndrome is the most common postural distortion pattern that we see in our clinic. Upper Cross Syndrome is recognized as improper posture where we hunch forward in the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical regions, round our shoulders forward, and hold our head forward. This causes primarily hypertonic (tight) pecs, upper traps, and sub occipital muscles as well as secondarily hypertonic teres majors, and subscapulari. It also causes primarily inhibited (stretched) rhomboids, lower traps, and deep neck flexor muscles as well as secondarily inhibited infraspinati and teres minors. Upper Cross Syndrome can lead to the following conditions:
•Acid Reflux and Hernias
•Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The good news is that there are great chiropractic treatments for Upper Cross Syndrome as well as effective home care remedies such as stretching, exercising, self muscle release, and practicing proper posture. Keep an eye out for future videos explaining these home care approaches.
Sitting is comparable to smoking from an ergonomist's perspective because it slowly takes a toll on the joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body as well as prevents the nervous system from functioning to it's full potential. For this reason, sitting should be minimized when possible and healthy standing or movement breaks should be utilized. However, when we sit it is important to practice proper posture to reduce the stress on our body as much as possible. Proper posture while sitting is accomplished starting from establishing our forward pelvic tilt to induce a proper curve in the low back. Once the pelvic tilt and low back curve are established, the rest of the spine follows suit and the muscles don't have to work as hard to maintain proper posture. This is accomplished by dragging the buttocks down the back of the chair in the act of sitting down so that proper forward pelvic tilt is maintained.