Layered Syndrome, Layer Syndrome, Stratification Syndrome or Cross Syndrome are all the same and are terms that not everyone has heard of unless you have been told you have them.
Which has brought you to my blog with questions about the symptoms, treatments and where to start!
In this blog I will explain he following points and answer these questions:
- The basic concepts of proper movement patterns.
- What is Lower Cross Syndrome?
- What is Upper Cross Syndrome?
- What is Layered Syndrome?
- What causes Layered or Cross Syndrome?
- How to correcting wrong or pathological patterns of movement.
You have to understand that every dysfunction in movement patterns is the beginning of the steps toward the ultimate Layered Syndrome so it is safe to say that almost everyone in modern society has some component of the Layered or Cross Syndrome. So your condition is not as rare as you may think.
Basic Biological Patterns of Movement
I promise to not make you into a kinesiologist BUT if there is a problem in movement, to solve the issue, you need to understand the basics of movement patterns. To get this clarified, you have to put your ‘common sense’ hat on and pay close attention to what I am about to explain! I will do my best to put everything is a simple form and associate with things that we are all familiar with.
Every infant, with the exception of a few genetic disorders, regardless of gender, geolocation, nationality, religion, socio-economic level, etc. is born with basic ‘apps’ similar to the apps that come with your smartphone that you cannot erase! That must be because they are basic necessities to what the infant is to go through to move to survive, to procreate to continue the survival of the species!!! That is how we are wired!
The controlling system in your body is the nervous system which is comprised of the:
- Spinal column
The nerves are very important given that they allow communication between your brain and EVERY SINGLE part of your body including cells and organs. The movement patterns and developmental stages in all babies (except for those genetic issues) are pretty much the same and there is an absolute intelligence behind them all.
For instance, when a newborn is laid on the floor and during the tummy time, his desire for survival encourages the deep neck muscles, with no strength at the time, to develop. If they do NOT work, the baby will be on his face and unable to breathe. As time progresses, there is more strength in the deep neck extensors which is essential to holding the head up to see the surroundings and to be motivated to grab things, put them in the mouth and explore the world.
Once the baby’s vision is advanced and can see her toes, the motivation is to put the toe in the mouth; BUT in order to do that, she will be using the lower ab muscles which is one of the major role players in stabilizing the torso (from the neck to the sacrum) while the lower extremities (the legs) do the walking, running, jumping, or whatever else they are supposed to do.
Your core is NOT your abdominals!! It is not your lower back. Your core is your whole torso and all the muscles within this rectangle we call the torso are to stabilize the torso. As I always say, the muscles of the rectangle are to provide for the rectangle and not the lower or upper extremities.
That means if the pelvis is to flex, the quads should not flex the hip to then flex the pelvis!! This is a great example of wrong or pathological pattern of movement and the source of many conditions that I see in my practice.
Watch this video to understand what I just said because this is the key to your issue in movement!
Now before getting to what layered syndrome is all about you need to understand what lower cross and upper cross syndrome are first. So here we go..
What is Lower Cross Syndrome?
With Lower Cross Syndrome there is a musculoskeletal imbalance that is a result of weak lower abdominals and Gluteus Maximus muscles in conjunction with tight Psoas and Erector Spinae muscles.
Now, I am not telling you to go and stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak muscles. Your issue is NOT in isolation so why do you need to isolate a muscle to work on it? It makes no sense and that is the reason why most therapies for patients with Layered Syndrome fail, which we will get to soon!
When every single step you take, every single move that involves your lower extremities, lower back, and pelvis start being off and it is only a matter of time before the rest of your body has to adapt to these wrong patterns of movements and try to create a balance based on its newly developed reality.
The issue with Lower Cross Syndrome is that the movements are rather complex meaning many of the moves are combination moves and multiple vectors (X, Y and Z vectors—> remember those?) are involved.
That means that for instance, if your hip flexor, the Psoas, is hypertonic or tight on the right side, you are not only flexed forward on the right side but also your pelvis will be rotated toward the left side if looking at the mirror. In other words, the one-sided issue in one vector or plane of movement is not isolated on all issues within the region to being on the same plane of movement!
Now let’s talk about the Upper Cross Syndrome!
What is Upper Cross Syndrome?
Does this look familiar? Do you have to have Layered Syndrome to see this? A high majority of people and that includes teenagers btw and older, have the so-called Tech neck. I did a whole blog on just that which I suggest you review here: What is Tech Neck?
You can see how for instance looking at a monitor, having had neck surgery, tension headaches, or scoliosis are a few examples of one thing leading to another and before you know it, the whole posture is compromised.
Then you have the lower body association with the upper body. If you have weak abdominals and glutes as seen in the Lower Cross Syndrome, you will have a forward neck which then means right upper trap and tight pec muscles. This means rolled forward shoulders and anterior or forward neck.
This combination of things now brings us to the term Layered Syndrome!
What is Cross Syndrome or Layered Syndrome?
Layered Syndrome is a combination of both upper and lower cross syndrome, which means a much more complex series of issues than one vs the other. Don’t be disappointed and think there is no hope!! My practice is living proof of those who had lost hope and thought there was no way out! I am not saying it is going to be easy but nothing of value comes easy either.
So better than asking what is layered syndrome, what you should be asking which came first, the upper or the lower one?
Lower Cross Syndrome seems to be the first step toward the formation of Layered Syndrome, which is not surprising. Why? Because if you think about it when our feet are planted on the ground you are essentially blocking movement going below the feet.
This meaning, that the feet are stopped by the ground so every ‘tweaking’ that needs to happen in your movement, will happen on the segments (joints) above, because of the limitation between your feet and ground.
If that doesn’t make much sense try reading the section below to dig deep into the causes of layered syndrome.
What Causes Layered Syndrome or Cross Syndrome?
Layered Syndrome is the combination of both the Upper Cross Syndrome and Lower Cross Syndrome which are explained in their own sections below.
What sets the initial seed that spiraled down to the Layer Syndrome in you is different from another person with the same issue. The solution to your problem, another person with Cross Syndrome or someone that has movement issues manifested as a chronic problem or reinsuring the same area of the body is the same!!! We go back to the BASICS: The initial patterns and progression of movement!
Essentially if you have Layer Syndrome, none of your movement patterns are correct and it is not necessarily because you were born that way. You may have had an injury at a young age when the advance movement patterns were forming and that set you off on the wrong track. It could be that your lifestyle dictated a certain ‘tweaking’ of a joint, its actions, its movement related to the surrounding joints and once again, a downward spiral of movement patterns!
If the movement was a concert, your brain is the conductor, the map of movement and sensation called Homunculus is the music notes for the conductor to conduct and the body parts are the musicians.
As our lifestyle, injuries, and previous issues take place, the musical notes change so the map of movement and sensation is subjected to the changes. If the notes change, the conductor will conduct the new notes and the musicians knowing their musical instruments will play. The concert is everything coming together and the musicians chiming in when they are supposed to.
If that very part of when to chime in gets changed, the concert is no longer the best concert. In Layered Syndrome, the musicians play their parts fully out of sync and have been doing so for so long that the Homunculus, the musical notes, are changed so the commander is constantly changing its way of conducting the concert. It is like walking on hot coal and you can’t blame any specific part of your body as the culprit. There are so many contributors in Cross Syndrome but let’s not point fingers!
At this point, I hope you have a better understanding of what layered syndrome really is and how it has developed in you. Now we can move onto what to do for treatment, or what not to do!
Why Most Treatments for Layered Syndrome Don’t Work?
The short answer is because:
- The whole person is not looked at as a whole.
- Patients are not understanding the extent of complexity of the issue.
- Providers and patients don’t communicate well.
- Insurance coverage hardly pays for the effective treatment (assuming there is insurance coverage).
- Finances and time get in the way.
It’s typically some combination of the above, if not all. Let’s break this issue down further.
Layered Syndrome is a whole body issue; this includes the whole skeletal system, the nervous system, and Homunculus (the brain’s map of movement and sensation). That means the neurology of posture as well as the systematic movement of body parts is involved.
The good news is that you are wired the right way so no-one needs to start from scratch to ‘re-wire’ your nervous system when it comes to Postural Neurology. The bad news is that most providers do not know about Postural Neurology. Since my specialty is Postural Neurology and Functional Movement, I have written quite extensively about these two subjects which I suggest you look into more.
Most treatments focus on each area of major ‘malfunction’ and work on those areas in isolation. If you see a Chiropractor who just adjusts the spine or does rehab at the office but the rehab involves weights and bands for example, then you are working with a doctor that is not looking at movement as a ‘concert’ but focuses only on sections of the symphony!
If you work with physical therapy that uses machines and once again, bands, and weights to ‘train’ your muscles, then you are in the same boat!
That means working on strengthening the abs or stretching the tight upper trap, for instance, is not going to solve the issue. That means bands, weights, and over-door pulleys are not going to be your ‘tools’!!
If you think about it, no infant and baby ever use weights, bands and pulleys to gain strength and amazingly enough, they are never tight in any of their muscles (with a few genetic exceptions). This is when using common sense comes in handy!
So if we can use Postural Neurology to make sure the map of movement is the way it should be and through positive neuroplasticity (positive activation of the nervous system) through correct brain exercises (no Sudoku or any cognitive exercises btw) make sure the map is correct, then by doing developmental movements like DNS or Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization , we can build strength in the weak and stretch the tight or hypertonic muscles that are resulted from Layered Syndrome.
Here is an example of what a positive neuroplasticity exercise is like.
Here is one of the Functional Movement exercises that most people have a difficult time doing, including my patients who are heavily active and “fit” accord to societies standards. This is a movement that we all did when we were 6 month old babies. We did it like a pro then because we were wired and motivated to do so, and we still have that hardwired into us.
You can check out my Youtube Channel for a collection of these exercises to better understand why more than likely the treatments you have received have not worked long term, if at all.
Layered Syndrome is Treatable!
While it takes an infant about 18 months to walk, it is not going to take you that long to learn how to effectively move. However, it will be a life-long daily practice. That does not mean going to the gym to practice what you’ve learned, since you can do all of these exercises at home for about 15 min a day, but that means that if you decide to go to the gym to work out and pursue a specific line of sport, the rules that you learn in my office and treatment apply across all activities.
The Olympic athlete has the same perfect posture that a new child walking does and the Olympic hammer thrower, heavy weight lifter, sprinter, swimmer, skier, etc. all have the same perfect movement patterns. That is the beauty of movement. We are all meant to have it down perfectly.
So if it comes down to the time commitment from you, the patient, if it is the financial investment from you, the patient, that is stopping you from seeking the right treatment, I can only remind you that if you add up every minute and penny you spend pursuing the WRONG or partial treatment, the sum is substantial! Time is the commodity that is never gained and health is the investment that has no price tag.
Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to live it.