I see a lot of new clients and experienced athletes with what we call ‘flexion syndrome’. The symptoms include headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, pain between the shoulders, back pain, hip pain, and knee pain. That’s a lot of pain, not to mention the injuries that come from being chronically short in flexion.
Working, sitting, driving, most sports and many other activities cause us to stoop forward. Our eyes orient us forward and down all the time – except for moms who we all know have another set of eyes on the back of their heads.
As I write this article I am fighting the forward list into the monitor. Anyone who works in an office or drives all day knows the mysterious pains that come from this seemingly docile position. The fact is that occupational positions put our bodies into repetitive poor posture and cause major symptoms.
Most of us think about sports injuries and accidents when they try to give reasons for injury. How could anyone sustain injuries just from poor posture? Easy, because injuries creep up on you over time like body mass where you don’t want it. Desk jockeys and regular jocks all get into a lot of flexion exercise and positions and this mechanical flaw leads to injuries.
What is Flexion?
Flexion is shortening. For example we move our heads forward to look at stuff while our bodies work hard to balance the 11 to 14 pounds of bone encased cholesterol. Your neck bones articulate forward so the muscles on the front side of your neck get short and tight and the ones on the back of the neck become strained from balancing your noggin. This (aka tech-neck) causes strain to the structures on the back of the neck and all the way down the spine.
As this becomes a chronic problem, you are usually given several expensive tests, limitless opioids, some shots, some electro-shock treatment, a pre-existing condition classification and little relief.
Our shoulders move forward and up to support the head and do stuff in front of you. This causes many of the pains listed above. Your own musculature can easily pull bones out of alignment slowly.
Another example occurs in our hips, psoas muscles tend to get short and glutes tend to get weak. This function cause the hips to be in a constant state of flexion and often leads to back pain, knee pain and so on. I would argue that most back pain come from this over-flexion function.
Athletes tend to have the same poor mechanics as regular people but they add weight and speed to the problem. This exacerbates the immediate or long term posture problem.
All the braces, neon k-tape, stretching, medication and adjustments in the world will not fix this problem without some detailed strengthening.
You can do a few simple things to fix this problem. Perform more strength exercises into extension, backwards, up-side-down and in reverse. For example, do more pull-ups and rows and less push-ups and bench press. If you bike a lot (total flexion), strengthen glutes, hams and pack (the muscles that pull you back out of the biking position). If you sit or drive for work, do the same thing. In my experience, the combination of overloaded quads and weak glutes is a bigger injury causer than almost any other mechanical dysfunction so my advice is always to strengthen glutes and stretch quads.
Another method of relief is to strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades to help them hold your head up and pull your shoulders into proper position. This will help with the shoulder and neck problems. Learn to strengthen joints back into proper position with your own muscles. Get an objective opinion about your individual mechanics no whatever you do from an experienced trainer or therapist.