Upper Cross Syndrome

This could be you? To be honest we all have to a degree, and I would like to mention it just briefly.

If you stand yourself or your partner, up against the wall with your back to the wall and your feet just 2/3 inches away, you should be able to get you back, from the base of your spine up through your entire torso and the back of your head to almost meet with the wall. Try it...

If you find that when your lower back comes close to the wall and your shoulders lift off, or when you put the shoulders back and in contact with the wall, it leaves a big gap at your lower back, you are probably someone who has the above.

Is it bad? No, not necessarily, but it can lead to many problems and you may be suffering with its negative effects now. Because of the rotation it causes in the shoulder girdle, it can cause tension headaches, dizziness, shoulder pain, pain when lifting the arm, numbness in the fingers, pain in the upper back between the shoulder blades (scapula), to name a few.

Is it easily rectified? With education and a little hard work and dedication, in most cases it is! The cross (X) part refers to the muscles being tight in one section of the cross and loose in the other, therefore creating an imbalance in the way we function in the upper torso.

If we move and posture incorrectly for a long time this causes the body to compensate and over use one set of muscles and renders the opposing muscles inactive. To improve the situation, you need to first become aware of what is occurring and then set about correcting it, by stretching the tight set of muscles and then strengthening the weak (loose) set.

Simple? It really is! But you will need someone who is a specialist in anatomy and movement to help you to build a plan to correct it.

If you are suffering with any of the above, clinic and posture are my passion and I would love to help. There, so now you know a little about upper cross syndrome and how to test for it.

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x

Pilates exercises (not for first timers!)

A little routine for my own clients, please do not use this if you do not normally do Pilates with us at BackFit. This is a mix of exercise to practice and perfect at home. Good luck, do not strain or push past your normal ability; everything will improve with practice, determination and continual repetition.

One of the most frequently asked questions about Pilates is: Will Pilates help me lose weight? The short answer is yes, Pilates is supportive of weight loss. In many cases just beginning Pilates class, or a home routine, is enough to jump start weight loss. However, as time goes by you may find that your body becomes accustomed to your workout level. Then, you will need to increase the intensity of your workout enough to help you continue to burn extra calories. Here are some ideas to help you amp up your workout:

1. Pelvic Tilt from a neutral position

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
The warm-up exercises are very important in teaching the foundations of Pilates movement. They also prepare the body for safely executing more challenging exercises later. I suggest that you choose at least two or three to begin each Pilates routine you do.

2. Chest Lift

 (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Muscular focus: abdominals - especially upper abs
Tips: This is not a crunch. The abdominals must be pulled way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl up and roll down.

3. The Hundred

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners please use the knees in a table top position.
Muscular focus: abdominals, breathing
Tips: Your abdominals will be deeply pulled in, so you will have to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your back and lower ribs. Use your abs to hold yourself up--don't get caught up in your shoulders and neck.

4. The Roll Up 

 ((c)2006 Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners please bend your knees
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Use your abdominals to roll up and down with control. Do not rely on momentum or letting your legs lift off the mat.

5. One Leg Circle

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners bend the non active leg.
Muscular focus: abdominals, thighs, hip flexors
Tips: The abdominals keep the pelvis stable as the leg moves. No rocking and rolling!

6. Rolling Like a Ball

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Beginners put your hands behind the thighs. Round the back and breath in as you roll back, breath out on the return to balance point.
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by throwing the upper body back.

7. Open Leg Balance

 (courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Practice from the balance point you used with the roll back position and start by straightening one leg at a time.
Muscular focus: abdominals, hamstring stretch
Tips: Use you abdominals to control the pose. Try not to pull on your legs for balance.

8. The Side Kick Series

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Do not over stretch the leg, focus on keeping the leg long and strong.
Muscular focus: abdominals, all thigh muscles - especially inner thigh
Tips: The ribs should stay lifted throughout each exercise. Do not let them sink to the mat.

9. Front Support/Plank  the press up the position.

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Muscular focus: back extensors, abdominals, shoulders, arms
Tips: Stay in one line from your heels to your ears. Though the focus is somewhat on the upper body, if you engage the legs and imagine squeezing the sit bones together, the exercise will be easier.

10. Saw 

 ((c)2006, Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners can soften at the knee and just do rotation, without the flexion (moving forward to the toe)
Muscular focus: hamstrings, inner thigh, oblique abdominals, back stretch
Tips: Keep your hips anchored and level as you turn to the side. Extend energy through the back arm even as you reach forward.

Neck and Back Stretches

All these stretches must be done in a slow and controlled movement, no bounce and keep the spine in neutral for all these stretches, always do both sides.

Start with an upright position, drop the arm on the side you want to stretch, then place the opposite hand over the top of your head and just rest it there. Now apply a downward pull on the arm toward the floor, until you feel the stretch and hold for 10-15  seconds.

This is similar to the above but start with the head rotated to the side before applying the downward pull. 7-10 sec

Start with the head in neutral, pull your chin in, then lower your head towards your chest. Place your hands on the top of your head and let them rest. You should feel a stretch from the base of the skull and down the centre of the upper back.

Spring into Action

Back pain Versus Gardening

It is that time of year when we are excited about the prospect of getting out in the garden, being creative, feeling free and alive and fearing the outcomes of over doing it. Every year the same things crop up and it is a lucrative time for the back manipulator. But does it really have to be that way?

Having spent a long (certainly this year) winter indoors and many hours sitting for whatever reason, computer, sofa, chatting, it is time to get physical again! So let’s get to it, in a much more informed way. Don’t just march out into the garden and tackle it full on for 8 hours!!!

A few basic exercises could help warm you up ready to start, maybe a brisk walk around the block first to get the blood flowing through your system, just 5 minutes or so. Then some simple joint mobilisations, ankle and shoulder rotations, knee and hip flexion and extension ( sit down and stand up a few times) gentle looking from side to side with your head to warm up the neck and then simple side bends, keeping the body straight, with soft knees.

These few exercises before you start and thinking about how you will position yourself whilst working, the body/back doesn’t like to be static, so changing your posture regularly and taking breaks every hour, will ensure that your body isn’t being misused and if you feel discomfort, stop stretch and take a break.

Sounds too simple, that's why nobody does it! But looking after "you" doesn’t need to be complicated!

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x