Got Back Pain? Consider Lower Cross Syndrome
Have you ever wondered why your back pain never goes away or keeps coming back?
The reason might be the result of muscle imbalance. The muscles that stabilize and support the spine can easily become imbalanced with repetitive activities or prolonged postures. In today’s world, one of the chief culprits is prolonged sitting.
Sitting causes the muscles in the front of the hips to shorten; it increases tightness and tension in the low back muscles, and weakens the gluteal (buttock) muscles.
Imbalances develop gradually over time. People that sit for a living are prime candidates. The story I hear almost daily is something like, “I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. All I did was . . . .”
You get the idea. If you’ve suffered back pain, you can fill in the blank. Maybe it’s simply bending over to reach for a bar of soap in the shower, or standing at the sink to do the dishes or any number of other normal daily activities. The activity isn’t the cause, it’s merely the last straw.
Lower Cross Syndrome Muscle Imbalance
Lower Cross Syndrome is a very common form of muscle imbalance that causes back pain. Referring to the diagram on the right, you can see the “cross” of the imbalanced muscles:
- Weak glute muscles
- Weak abdominals
- Tight hip flexors
- Tight rectus femoris
- Tight low back extensor muscles
Lower Cross Structural Changes
Take a look at the next diagram. This shows the tightness of the low back erector spinae muscles, the iliopsoas hip flexor muscle and the rectus femoris causing to the boney alignment tat include a forward rotation of the pelvis and an increased sway of the low back.
Do you have Lower Cross Syndrome?
People with Lower Cross Syndrome:
- Often complain of chronic or recurring back pain. Some people will say they’ve been to other chiropractors for adjustments but “the adjustment doesn’t hold.”
- Have back pain that’s aggravated by activities or postures that increase the low back sway, like bending backward at the waist or wearing high heel shoes.
Common Causes of Lower Cross Syndrome
- Prolonged sitting, particularly with bad posture
- Physical inactivity
- Sports or other activities that involve an unequal strain on the back or pelvic muscles
- Poor exercise technique (e.g., lumbar hyperextension in the deadlift, press, and squat).
- Imbalanced strength training (e.g. more lower back and/or hip flexor training than glute and/or abdominal training).
How is Lower Cross Syndrome Diagnosed?
A skilled chiropractor will be able to diagnose you by taking a good history and performing a thorough examination. This entails asking probing questions and closely listening to answers. We then carefully examining posture, muscle tone, strength, and flexibility.
If you have lower cross muscle imbalance, it’s usually pretty evident. We see new cases nearly every week.
How is Lower Cross Syndrome Treated?
The second part of this article will be devoted to answering that question. Lower cross syndrome creates a vicious cycle of mechanical change. Because the gluteals and abdominals are weak, their function is compromised, and other muscles such as the hamstrings and lower back muscles are abnormally recruited to assist them in performing activities such as running and walking. This leads to tightness and overuse of the low back and hamstring muscles and a further weakening of the gluteal and abdominal muscles. Treatment is focused on reversing the cycle. Trust me, it can be done!
Thanks again for reading. It’s our pleasure to share this information with you. In the event you see yourself in this article, feel free to contact us.
- The Janda approach to chronic pain syndromes.
- Jull G. Janda V: Muscles and Motor Control in the low back pain: Assessment and management. Edited by IN Twomey LT, Taylor JR: Physical Therapy of the low back, Churchill Livingston, New York, 1987.
- Warren Hammer 2005: Functional Soft Tissue Examination and Treatment by manual Methods ISBN 0763727679.