FASCIAL ADHESIONS OF ANTERIOR MUSCLES CAUSE PAIN IN THE UPPER BACK AND NECK
Any number of factors can come together to create a “PERFECT STORM” of fascial adhesion in the front (anterior) side of the body, leading to PAIN and TRIGGER POINTS in the neck and upper back. Although it’s not the only way it happens, too much sitting is the prime culprit.
When the body spends too much time in flexion (the anterior aspects of the body brought closer to each other as what happens with sitting or a STOOPED POSTURE), the tissues tend to adapt to this shortened state, creating a phenomenon I refer to as “TETHERING“. So, when you spend too much time in flexion (workouts included), it’s inevitable that posture will be affected, ultimately ending in pain and degeneration. What are some of the muscles commonly affected?
- ABDOMINALS: Not only are your abdominal muscles large, they are made up of numerous layers. Although I’ve talked about the problems associated with sit ups and crunches in the past (HERE), realize that they not only potentially lead to fascial adhesions of the abdominals, they can lead to disc herniations (trunk flexion opens the back part of the disc, while intense muscular contraction in this position pushes the disc’s jelly center further back). Furthermore, FASCIAL ADHESIONS in the abdominals can lead to digestive and other organic issues (ENDOGUT) as well as being a contributing factor in HIATAL HERNIA.
- HIP FLEXORS: When you think about it, it’s fairly easy to understand that tight or tethered HIP FLEXORS will, sooner or later, pull you into flexion. And as I’ve shown before (HERE), hip flexor tethering is also frequently related to abdominal tethering.
- PECTORALS: The chest muscles — particularly where they meet the anterior deltoid or front shoulder muscles — frequently becomes tethered. Again, several factors are at play, but sitting is a big one. However, when people go beyond sitting to hunched over a computer or factory line, the chest, front shoulder, and bicep, shorten even more. Also, in the gym, people have a tendency to overwork their chest and biceps, while under-working their back and triceps (people like to work the muscles they can easily see in a mirror). Once again, the result is being pulled into flexion by an overbalanced anterior musculature.
- SCM: The STERNOCLEIDOMASTOID MUSCLE (SCM) in the neck can create huge problems (neurological problems included) as far as flexion is concerned. When this muscle becomes tethered as is commonly seen with WHIPLASH INJURIES, it pulls the head downward into….. You guessed it, flexion. As I’ve told patients about 10,000 times, the number one most important range of motion in you body, let alone your neck, is your ability to get your neck into extension (the opposite of flexion). HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, or even HERE are some good articles on this subject.
Why am I so down on trunk / neck flexion? It’s the body’s default state, and if you don’t combat it, it’s where you’ll eventually end up. Only the flexion will become progressively worse, leading you into an increasingly “bent forward” posture. A simple way to think about this is that when you see people who are stooped, you intuitively realize they are not healthy (they are usually in a state of both UPPER CROSSED SYNDROME and LOWER CROSSED SYNDROME). This is because flexion is the posture of age, the posture of chronic pain, and the posture of chronic illness.
You don’t see truly healthy people who have a stooped posture. And because everything is connected (HERE), to the point where the fascia actually acts as its own nervous system (HERE), we can start to see how seemingly simple postural aberrations could lead to actual sickness and disease (HERE). What are you going to do about it?
Naturally, it’s critical that you start bringing your body back into balance by bringing it out of flexion and back into extension. It’s such a big deal that I’ve created a post on this very topic (HERE). Remember, however, that this is just one prong of a multi-pronged approach. In order to make a real difference with your stretching, you may have to have any anterior adhesions dealt with, otherwise stretching could prove unproductive, or worse yet, create more problems (HERE).
And lastly, if you fail to deal with underlying inflammation, truly getting better is probably a pipe dream because inflammation causes fibrosis (HERE), whose hallmark is “THICKENED FASCIA“. THIS POST should help you as far as addressing systemic inflammation is concerned. Liking what you’re seeing? Be sure to spread the wealth by liking, sharing or following on FACEBOOK.