Exercises to Fix Upper Crossed Syndrome

The upper crossed syndrome is a common type of muscle imbalance in the upper body. It only takes a few minutes to discover whether you or someone else has it. Another indication is the head moving forward, accompanied by rounding the upper back and shoulders. The hunched-over posture used by individuals who sit at a computer for long periods is the most prevalent cause of this illness. If you have this sort of posture or believe you are developing it, it’s critical to address it immediately. It’s not only an unattractive style, but it can also have an impact on your general health and well-being.

This article will explain what upper crossed syndrome is, how it forms, and what you can do to avoid it. We’ll also give you a few easy exercises that you can do at home to cure the upper crossed syndrome.

What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?

Dr. Vladimir Janda, a physiatrist and a Czech physician who sought to understand the body’s regular pattern of muscular compensation as a postural imbalance, first recognized the frequent muscle imbalance known as an upper crossed syndrome (UCS).

Janda’s work suggests that a poor posture induces faulty movement patterns that contribute to the overuse of isolated joints and restricted range of motion in others, resulting in a continuous cycle of malfunction and injury. In the following part, we’ll examine the affected muscle groups of Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Symptoms of Upper Crossed Syndrome 

The most apparent indicators of the upper crossed syndrome include a hunched shoulder and a forward head posture. Discomfort or stiffness in the shoulders, neck and upper back are frequently associated with these posture adjustments. The following are the most frequent signs of the upper crossed syndrome:

  • Neck strain
  • Lower back pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Fatigue
  • The shoulder joint’s stability and mobility have decreased.
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers, arms, and hands.

Upper crossed syndrome, if not treated, may lead to secondary health issues such as cervicogenic headaches, myofascial trigger points, and even lower breathing capacity. The Upper Crossed Syndrome can also result in spinal damage if left untreated, specifically in the CTK to CTK element of the upper back and the T4 to T5 region of the mid-back.

What causes Upper Crossed Syndrome?

Repetitive motions and damage to the joints and muscles in the neck, shoulder, and mid-back are some of the causes of the upper crossed syndrome. Poor posture is one of the most common causes of the upper crossed syndrome, especially among individuals who spend large amounts of time at a computer.

When you sit for lengthy periods, your body adapts to these hazardous postures, which can lead to muscular imbalances. In the case of those who sit at a desk for long periods of time, their shoulders gradually hunch over, and their heads move ahead. If not corrected or neutralized somehow, your body will eventually get used to this posture and stay there for a long time.

What actually occurs to the body when it has Upper Crossed Syndrome?

To comprehend how upper crossed syndrome develops, it’s crucial to think about the rotator cuff’s structure (the group of muscles and tendons that move and align the shoulder joint). The shoulder is supported by a web of muscles in the upper back. It enables you to a full range of movement (abduction, adduction, extension, flexion, lateral and medial rotation, and circumlocution), unlike the hip joint, which is stabilized by a cup-shaped cavity on the hip bone.

The levator scapula, upper trapezius, lower trapezius, and serratus anterior are examples of these muscles. When one of these tiny muscles gets tightened due to damage, overuse, or poor posture, the opposing muscle fibers lengthen and become fatigued. This causes the preceding muscles to tighten even more, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of muscular imbalance.

Upper crossed syndrome is caused by the weakening and elongation of the posterior muscles of the upper back (levator scapula, upper trapezius, serratus anterior) and the strengthening and tightening of the anterior ones (pectoralis minor, pectoralis major, neck flexor). The tightness of the pectoral muscles and neck flexors is opposed by the tightness of the levator scapula and upper trapezius. In contrast, the weakness of the neck flexors is countered by a lack of anterior serratus.

A result of this is a cross-crossed pattern of muscular imbalances, hence the term “upper crossed.” Forward head posture and rounded shoulders are typical postural changes associated with the upper crossed syndrome.

Too Complicated? Let’s Break It Down

We know that Upper Crossed Syndrome is defined by two lines, each of which might be regarded as a slanted line that results in the full cross when combined.

The First Line

We understand that when someone sits in front of their computer for too long, their shoulders round and their back hunches forward. The body will adapt to this posture over time, which results in:

  • The pecs become taut after sitting for lengthy periods in a short period. The shoulder is internally rotated as a result of these tight pec muscles, causing them to round forward.
  • When your shoulders move up closer to the back of your head, the muscles that run from your shoulder blade up to the top of your neck become tense (Upper Traps and Levator Scapula). Overactivity of the upper traps might be due to this.

The first line of the cross is formed by the above.

The Second Line

The more you sit, the farther your head advances forward. This is especially true if you spend too much time looking at a screen or even holding a smartphone (also known as Text Neck). This causes:

  • The rear of the neck to fatigue, such that it is unable to push the head back far enough to sit straight above the spine. The back of the neck can also become constricted.
  • The upper back muscles (Lower traps and Rhomboids) grow elongated and flaccid. As a consequence, they no longer lift their shoulders back but rather allow them to round forward.

The second line is the second. The Upper Crossed Syndrome is formed when these lines are connected.

Treatment Options for the Upper Crossed Syndrome

Upper crossed syndrome can be treated or even eliminated with a customized treatment strategy that incorporates chiropractic care, massage, physiotherapy, or a combination of all three.

Chiropractic care

Chiropractor treatment is a form of manual therapy that focuses on realigning the joints and increasing the range of motion in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Depending on the seriousness of the UCS, chiropractic therapy may be a key component of the treatment strategy.

Physical therapy

Physical therapists utilize manual techniques to treat pain and restore full range of motion to the afflicted region, just like chiropractors. Therapists also advise their patients on home treatment regimens and lifestyle modifications that can be made to avoid further injury.

Corrective exercise

An individualized treatment strategy for UCS may include neck, shoulder, and upper back muscle strengthening exercises in addition to physical therapy and chiropractic care. According to research, the upper crossed syndrome can be treated with strength exercises for the middle trapezius and lower trapezius and stretching exercises for the upper trapezius and levator scapulae.

Upper Crossed Syndrome Exercises

Upper Crossed Syndrome might be remedied without the assistance of a specialist in many cases. If you’re healthy and able to do moderate exercise, you might be able to cure it yourself. This part explains how you might fix it with corrective exercises in a little more detail. Keep in mind that these instructions are not meant to be a substitute for professional care and are most effective when combined with individualized chiropractic and physical therapy treatment plan.

Steps to Overcome Upper Crossed Syndrome

To cure the upper cross syndrome, you must reverse everything covered thus far. Here are a handful of videos with exercises you may wish to incorporate into your daily routine. Please also remember that there is no set sequence for performing these procedures.

1. Stretch the Pecs

Because your pecs will be restricted, you’ll want to learn how to stretch your pec muscles effectively. You may discover how to do so here.

2. Stretch the Neck & Levator Scapula

The back of the neck muscles will become tense with a forward head posture. These muscles will need to be stretched and widened.

3. Stretch the Upper Trap Area

Simply said, extend the distance between the top of your neck and your shoulders. The shoulder blades are currently pulled up too high because of a muscle deficiency.

4. Strengthen the Front of the Neck

This will assist you in raising your head and back on top of your spine.

5. Strengthen the Upper Back

Because the muscles have grown too long and feeble, the shoulder blades are most likely separated by an excessive distance.

When pinching your shoulder blades together, your shoulders will move back. By strengthening the muscles between the shoulder blades (the Rhomboids), you can encourage the pulled-back shoulder effect to arise naturally. The prone cobra exercise is an excellent method to achieve this objective. You may also need to develop your lower traps, which will cause your shoulder blades to descend. There are various stretches and exercises that can help you reach all of these objectives. In two blog entries, we go through how to complete each of these elements.

  1. How to Fix Rounded Shoulders
  2. How to Fix Forward Head Posture

Both of these articles are worth reading through, and the activities and stretches outlined should be tried.

Upper Crossed Syndrome: How to Avoid It

When you start your journey to recover from the upper crossed syndrome, keep in mind that any advantages you achieve by exercising and stretching may be reversed if you don’t address the underlying cause of the problem. To cure Upper Crossed Syndrome permanently, you’ll need to avoid putting your body in the posture that generates the terrible posture in the first place. The best method to prevent upper crossed syndrome or (if you’re already suffering from it) reverse it is to maintain excellent posture. Upper crossed syndrome can be prevented in several ways, including:

  • Use lumbar support with your office chair if you work at a computer all day, or use ergonomic office chairs.
  • Every 15 to 20 minutes take a break from sitting.
  • To break up the long stretch of sitting, use a standing desk.
  • Regularly perform stretches that target the neck, chest, upper back, and shoulder muscles.
  • Make sure your computer screen is at eye level.
  • Every day, spend at least 30 minutes doing low-impact cardiovascular exercises, such as swimming or walking.
  • Strengthening exercises that focus on the pectorals, upper and lower trapezius, deltoids, and front neck muscles
  • Limiting activities and motions that are painful.

Make it a point to focus on fixing the Upper Crossed Syndrome.

Upper crossed syndrome is caused by poor posture – especially for those who spend a lot of time at a computer terminal. The good news is that UCS can be treated. The shoulders and neck can be restored to the full range of motion if it’s addressed with a combination of exercise, chiropractic treatment, and physical therapy. If you’ve had upper crossed syndrome your whole life, it might take some time for your body to adjust to its proper position.

Another thing to remember is to keep good posture and form during your exercises and stretches. It would help if you keep your head pushed back and your neck extended, with your shoulders pulled back and descending away from your ears. The more you make, the more your well-being will improve and the additional benefits that good posture offers!

Based out of Minnesota, home of the world-famous mayoclinic.org, and founded by a team of health professionals, including Chiropractors and Physical Therapists. Yourbodyposture.com was started with the goal of being your go-to resource for all things posture and physical health-related.


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