Upper Cross Syndrome & Tennis Injuries-Avoiding injury off the courts

Avoiding Tennis Injuries Off the courts-Upper Cross Syndrome

By Dr. Todd Plutchok, DC ART Provider

Let’s treat the cause and not just the symptom.  Many times when tennis players are experiencing pain they flip their tennis game upside down trying to alter their swing, change their racket, decrease the volume of play, and strap on the latest and greatest gizmo/support to their arm, shoulder, or wrist.

What most of today’s athletes, especially the recreational and weekend warriors fail to acknowledge is how their everyday body mechanics play a role into their tennis game.  “We are what we repeat”, and that holds true with our posture and the role it plays on performance.

Those of you who are not professional tennis players, often have an obligation to make a living off the courts.  The majority of the clients I see spend their time in an office and desk setting, or performing a repetitive task such as typing, computing, driving, reading, studying etc.  The activities listed above can lead to a postural pattern known as “upper cross syndrome”, which can negatively effect your tennis game.

Upper Cross Syndrome is a pattern of tight and weak muscles, which will leaded to a hunched position with the shoulders rolled forward and head over the chest instead of the shoulders.  The constant tight trapezius muscles, tight chest and weak back muscles are a pattern.

Rolled shoulders and forward head posture will limit how far you can lift your arms, which in turn will limit your range of motion and power of your serve.  Tight pectoralis (chest) muscles and week rhomboids (back muscles) can limit your ability to reach back for a ball down the line.  When the shoulder roll forward it alters the angle of the elbow and wrist which will change the angle at which the impact and energy travels through the arm.  These altered angles many times distribute repetitive impact into a joint, muscle, or tendon instead of through it, resulting in inflammation.  Repetitive bouts of inflammation result in an “..itis”.  Tendonitis, bursitis, myofasciitis…you name it.

What appears on the surface to be just an elbow injury could be a symptom of a much larger problem. Even if you are not aware of imbalances or restrictions they are affecting you.  There is bad news, and their is good news.  The bad news is most of you will still have to continue to work, and sit at desk after reading this article.  The demands of societies and our obligations ofter require us to endure these postures to make a living.  The good news is there are ways for you to combat and minimize these challenges.  Their are professional services such as chiropractic and Active Release Technique that can help restore posture, and free up tight restricted muscles.  To regain and maintain that restoration, exercise is important.  Below are some strengthening and stretching exercises.

Stretch the tight muscles, Strengthen the weak muscles, and Release the inflammation and adhesions.  Below is a list of the items to stretch, ask your doctor, coach, or personal trainer for instruction, or you can always setup an appointment.

Stretch the following tight muscles

  • Upper trapezius
  • Sub occipital
  • Deep neck extensors
  • Pectoralis major/minor muscles
  • Levator scapuli muscles
  • Subscapularis muscle

The muscles that tend to be weak or lengthened include and need to be strengthened:

  • Rhomboids
  • Middle and lower trapezius
  • Deep neck flexors
  • Serratus anterio

Miscellaneous Work Activities to minimize effect

  • Sit on a balance disc or physio/swiss  ball at work,
  • Drink a lot of water to make yourself take frequent breaks.  Bathroom breaks=stretching & strengthening opportunity
  • Interchange a stool with your office chair every 2 hours
  • Make sure your monitor is at eye level
  • Push the back of your head back on the head rest of your care and hold for 10 seconds as you commute.


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