What Is Upper Cross Syndrome?
Upper Cross Syndrome is an imbalance in the neck and shoulder/mid back muscles that results in an altered posture. This altered posture puts stress on the neck and mid back resulting in chronic neck and/or mid back pain.
In Upper Cross the front neck muscles (neck flexors) and mid back muscles between the shoulder blades (rhomboids & lower traps) become over stretched and weakened. The opposite muscles begin to compensate causing the back neck muscles (sub occipitals & upper traps) and the chest muscles (pecs) to become tight and overworked. This imbalance in the muscles causes the neck to protrude forward in relation to the rest of the body further stressing the neck and mid back. We call this forward head posture or anterior head carriage.
What Causes Upper Cross Syndrome?
This altered posture typically results from spinal misalignments and/or repetitive stresses due to working at a desk, studying, prolonged iphone/ipad and/or prolonged driving, When we sit and work at a desk we tend to hunch forward, rolling our shoulders and neck forward. Sitting in this posture for long periods of time will weaken the front neck muscles and mid back muscles causing the back neck muscles and chest muscles to tighten in order to try to correct this altered posture.
In addition to affecting the neck and mid back, this alteration in posture will also stress the shoulder joints. Under this stress the shoulder can become misaligned resulting in pain and decreased range of motion.
Signs Of Upper Cross Syndrome
- Chronic neck pain, mid back pain and/or shoulder pain
- Chronically tight shoulder and/or neck muscles
- Rounding forward of the neck and shoulders (may result in a "hunch back" if severe enough)
- Sticking out (winging) of shoulder blades
- Increased neck curvature
Longterm Affects Of Upper Cross Syndrome
If left untreated, Upper Cross Syndrome will cause chronic pain and muscles tension that place unwanted stress on the joints of our spine and shoulders. This extra stress along with misalignments can create extra wear and tear and our joints eventually leading to arthritis and degeneration of the joint.
How To Correct Upper Cross Syndrome
Chiropractic adjustments are great for realigning the spine and shoulder and helping to release muscle tension. In addition to chiropractic care, patients will want to take preventative approach including proper posture and exercise to support the chiropractic treatments.
Ensure proper posture when working at a desk, studying, using phones, driving, etc. by rounding the shoulders back and pulling the chin in to bring the neck back over the body. You can also concentrate on pulling the shoulder blades together, as this will bring the shoulders back into the correct posture. If you work at a desk or use the computer make sure to have a proper set up. Wrists would be in a neutral position and you should be sitting up with feet flat on the floor or standing at your desk.
Exercises For Upper Cross Syndrome
- Strengthen: rhomboids with rowing exercise
- Stretch: pecs and back neck muscles.