Charlie Weingroff: Janda’s Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes

Charlie Weingroff provides a quick review of Janda’s Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes and covers the meanings and implications of inhibition and facilitation.

Remember what Janda said:

In the presence of pain and/or other negative stimuli, things happen in very typical patterns. Some muscles get inhibited. It doesn’t mean they are “off.” Inhibited doesn’t mean off. Muscles only turn off when you’re dead. Inhibited means that they don’t turn on as efficiently.

Facilitated means that muscles are much easier to turn on. We got that from PNF; something’s made easier.

Inhibited doesn’t mean off. Turn the light switch on doesn’t necessarily mean something is off.

Inhibited means that they are like bystanders . . . they don’t like playing in the game as much. They’re sitting on the bench, but they can work.

Understanding the crosses, and semantics are important to this understanding . . . If you don’t want to call these Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes, you can call it whatever you want. Use the words and terms that work for you.

If there’s a level of validation to this question about the crosses, think here:
Inhibited activation: Lower trap and serratus. Abdominals inhibited. Glute medius and Glute max inhibited. Where you see ‘inhibited’ is where the typical family of activation exercises happen.

If they’re inhibited, you want to bring them back up. It always works this way.

Facilitated: Think about where soft tissue work is really uncomfortable . . . think about where you typically find people who need to stretch or who feel tight like they need to stretch. Upper trap . . . I can go around the room and dig my thumb into your trap and most people will cringe. Lower back, rectus femoris, iliopsoas. These are typically areas where soft tissue work is very uncomfortable because these muscles are on all the time.

The question is “where do the crosses come from?”

This typical pattern is where the crosses come from. When you assess or come to the determination that someone is weak, all of these will appear weak.

Let’s take this in a different direction: I have pain in my shoulder and I can no longer express force production. Is it because my muscle is weak and I need more strength, specific adaptation to imposed demand (SAID) or do I need to get rid of the pain and then, all of a sudden, my strength is back.

That’s a big issue I see in common thought. Just because I can’t express force doesn’t always mean that I need to lift weights.

Pain is the doorstop, so the door won’t go. If something is overworked, like your upper traps, I’m not sure that it’s a weak muscle that requires strengthening. I think you need to take out the doorstop and that goes back to the principles that we talked about:

Mobility before stability. When we try to normalize these Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes, you will normalize the crosses first by turning down the facilitated patterns and that’s where your soft tissue work comes from.

Let’s say something is non-painful and you send them to a brilliant chiropractor who does ART. It’s on their hamstring and the chiropractor determines that the hamstring is facilitated . . . it’s overworked. They’re going to strip it out, break the adhesions, and do what ART is a fantastic tool to do.

Before they did it, they tested it and the hamstring was x. They do what they do, and all of a sudden, the hamstring is x + 5. It can then exhibit strength.

If the muscle is on constant tension, if the muscle is constantly contracted, and you can’t get quality force production when those cross bridges are already kind of tight. They’re already mildly contracted all of the time. If you can restore that tissue quality, you may find that strengthening may not be as necessary. We talked about that with stability. You may not need stability. You might already have it but you can’t get into it because mobility is holding everything back. Sometimes we’re talking about various mobility issues.

I would be very cautious about strengthening a muscle that has poor tissue quality.

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