Upper Crossed Syndrome: What is it?

Take a moment to visualize where your head currently is in relation to your shoulders. Is your head forward? Are you craning your neck to read this post on your device? If so, your posture may lead to upper crossed syndrome. 

What is upper crossed syndrome:

Upper crossed syndrome (UCS) happens when the muscles in the neck and upper back become out of balance.  This means that some areas get tighter than they should be or weaker than they should be.  UCS is a very common postural phenomenon that most people with desk jobs will experience at one point in their lives.  


The pattern that we most often see clinically involves tension in the upper trapezius and levator scapula muscles (the most common area of complaint when people suffer from “tight shoulders”) and tension in the pectoralis muscles.  We will also observe weakness in the deep neck flexor muscles (in the front of the neck) and weakness in the lower trapezius.  In most cases, it’s not unusual to see irritations in the upper and mid neck, as well as between the shoulders.


Specific postural changes often visualized with upper-crossed syndrome is anterior or forward head carriage, and increased thoracic kyphosis (humped back), shoulders rolled forward and laterally moved shoulder blades. Shoulder mobility can also be affected by some of these changes.  


How do we develop upper crossed syndrome?

The muscle imbalance that develops in UCS results in some muscles becoming inhibited or weak and others become short and tightened. The agonist/antagonist muscle function that we have throughout our bodies is necessary for normal muscle function.  


Often, upper crossed syndrome is the result of prolonged, recurrent poor posture while sitting or standing.  For example, hunching your shoulders forward and having forward head carriage. People often adopt this position when watching TV, reading, cycling, working on their computer or devices or while driving.  


What symptoms are common to experience?

Due to the muscle imbalance, as well as the mechanical strain on the body from the posture common to upper crossed syndrome, symptoms often come from the surrounding joints, muscles, tendons, and bones.  Symptoms can include: neck pain, headaches, upper back and shoulder pain, chest/rib cage tension, jaw pain, low back pain, fatigue, restricted range of motion in the neck and shoulders, numbness or tingling in the upper arms.


How can you treat and prevent upper crossed syndrome?

Chiropractic care, physiotherapy, massage, and exercises can all help to alleviate this issue.  These treatments can help alleviate the strain being placed on joints and muscles and improve posture. Incorporating exercises can then help with rehabilitating the body. Practicing proper posture is vital in preventing and also treating the condition.  UCS is something that can be drastically improved with simple good habits, but can also return if you fall back into bad postural habits.  

Is working from home starting to take its toll on your posture and your health?

Our health care providers are here to help you with an individualized plan to help you achieve your goals when improving your posture.  Give us a call to book an initial appointment.