Complied By Binumon Joseph, Registered Physiotherapist
Upper crossed syndrome refers to a particular configuration of overlapping overactive and under-active muscle groups in the neck, chest, and shoulders. Typically, poor posture causes the syndrome, including the forward head posture, which occurs when people use electronic devices, read, and drive. Those with upper crossed syndrome usually have the same or similar set of postural irregularities that people may describe as slouching. Many different stretching and strengthening exercises exist that usually offer relief for symptoms of upper crossed syndrome.
Fast facts on upper crossed syndrome
With upper crossed syndrome the muscles of the shoulders, neck, and chest have become deformed.
Specifically, the back muscles of the neck and shoulders (upper trapezius, and levator scapula) become extremely overactive and strained. The muscles in the front of the chest (the major and minor pectoralis muscles) become shortened and tight. As a result of these overactive muscles, the surrounding counter muscles become underused and weakened. In upper crossed syndrome, this causes weak muscles in the front of the neck (cervical flexor muscles) and in the lower shoulders (rhomboid and lower trapezius muscles). The condition gets its name from the "x" shape that develops when regions of overactive and under-active muscles overlap.
Poor posture can be a cause of upper crossed syndrome.
Different movements can cause upper crossed syndrome, but most cases develop through poor posture, specifically sitting or standing with the head forward for prolonged periods. Activities that promote this postural position include:
Common characteristics of upper crossed syndrome include:
The best way to treat upper crossed syndrome is through exercise and postural changes. Though some people may feel a lot of discomfort when stretching, it is important that they attempt some form of gentle exercise as restricting activity can cause stiffness and soreness.
People must ensure they warm up their tissues before exercising, either with gradual, gentle motions or by having a warm bath or shower. Begin all exercises gently and build up slowly.
The best way to prevent and treat upper crossed syndrome is to avoid activities that require stretching the head forward for extended periods of time.
Other tips for preventing upper crossed syndrome include:
Correcting or practicing proper posture is also an important part of avoiding and treating upper crossed syndrome.
Written by the team at Rebound Health and Wellness