upper cross syndrome

Upper Cross Syndrome: Symptoms, Exercises, Treatment

April 17, 2019

How serious is bad posture? When we were kids our parents told us to sit or stand up straight. At the time we usually thought it was just some strict rule to make life less fun. In truth, bad posture can cause a wide range of problems including upper cross syndrome.

Now, what is the upper cross syndrome? As a briefer, it’s an upper-body issue that occurs due to bad posture.

The more you know about UCS the sooner you can start dealing with it. Learn more about it below.


What is UCS?

So, let’s get to the basics about what upper cross (also crossed) syndrome is. This condition involves the shoulders, chest, and neck becoming deformed and usually due to bad posture. The specific muscles that are affected are usually the shoulders’ and neck’s back muscles.

It’s important to know what happens so you can pick up symptoms showing you might be suffering from UCS. First, these parts get over-active and strained. The next thing that happens is some muscles in the chest start getting tight/short.

The problem is when these muscles get used too much the other “counter muscles” around them don’t get used enough and thus become weak. The result is the over-active and underactive muscles starting to overlap. This results in an “X” shape forming and the “cross” part of UCS.

UCS usually results from standing or sitting for a long time with the head moved forward. This can include various activities like reading, biking, watching TV, PC/smartphone, and driving.


Signs of Upper Cross Syndrome

What should you look for specifically to learn if you have UCS? They include a bent-forward neck and rounded shoulders. Here are some of the symptoms to watch out for:

  • Headache
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Limited movement of neck/shoulders
  • Pain in ribs
  • Jaw pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Trouble sitting, watching TV, reading
  • Neck pain, weakness, strain
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in upper back/shoulders

Yes, that’s a long laundry list of possible symptoms. Just remember that having one of the symptoms doesn’t mean you definitely have UCS. As always look for multiple symptoms since this increases the chance that you’re suffering from this condition.

You can do some basic exercises. They can help relieve the symptoms and help correct the body’s structure.

You should also be on the safe side. Even if you’re not positive you have upper crossed syndrome you should still contact your physician immediately to have a checkup and tests. The cliché “better safe than sorry” definitely applies in this case since the condition can worsen over time.


Exercises for UCS

If you suffer from UCS then it’s important to do the right types of posture-correction exercises to treat any muscle imbalances you’re experiencing. Here are some good options:


1. Sitting Down Exercise

Step 1: Sit down and keep your back straight. Then put your feet down flat on the floor while bending the knees.

Step 2: Place your palms on the ground flat behind the hips. Turn both shoulders backwards/down.

Step 3: Remain in the position for 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat the exercise whenever you need to during the day.


2. Lying Down Exercise

Step 1: Lie down flat on the ground and put a pillow one-third up your back. Make sure it’s lined up with your spine.

Step 2: Allow the arms/shoulders to roll out and the legs fall open so they’re all in a natural position.

Step 3: Keep the head neutral and not strained/stretched. If that happens then make sure to support them using the pillow.

Step 4: Remain in this position for 10 to 15 minutes. Then repeat the exercise many times daily.


3. Chest Stretch

This improves the chest muscles’ range of motion. Put the inside of elbow on a wall and turn your body until you start feeling the chest stretch. Then repeat on the opposite side.


4. Chin Tuck

This spine exercise helps to fix the head’s forward position. Stand straight with your back on the wall. Tuck the chin a little to the chest and pull your head back to the wall. Keep the neck’s front muscles active and hold the position for a set amount of time.


Treatment for UCS

When treating UCS you have several options. We’ve just discussed some of the best options for exercises. Some other options include physical therapy and chiropractic care. In most cases a combination of all three of these treatments are used in order to provide the best results.


1. Chiropractic Care

When you’re experiencing bad posture and tight muscles due to UCS this can cause the joints to be lined up wrong. A chiropractor can help to fix this problem by realigning the joints.

This process can provide various benefits. A key one is increasing the affected areas’ range of motion. Another benefit is making an adjustment also usually relaxes/stretches the shortened muscles. The end result is less pain and discomfort.

Chiropractors can help with many of today’s health issues caused by bad posture. That includes pain in the upper back and neck from sitting all day in front of a computer screen.

It’s a good idea to visit a chiropractor just to make sure whether or not you have UCS or similar problems. The reason it’s not just fatigue. If conditions like upper cross syndrome isn’t treated it can actually become worse. That’s a situation you’ll want to avoid.


2. Physical Therapy

Physical therapists use a few different approaches to treat UCS. They can provide info like how it happened and ways to prevent it from happening in the future. The therapists can show how to do exercises that you can later do from your home.

Physical therapists also use manual therapy. This involves using hands to reduce pain/stiffness and improve your body’s movement.

It’s important to combine physical therapy, chiropractic care, and exercise to get the best results. When the resources team up you can get the best results when treating your condition. That can help you deal with current and future upper cross syndrome.