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  • Writer's pictureAshwood Chiropractic

Upper Crossed Syndrome making you cross?

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

Do you have a desk based job? Do you text a lot? Do you have a painful and stiff upper back/neck? The answer to these questions is "Yes" for many of us. Unfortunately for the majority of us, this problem is literally a pain in the neck that will just not go! Read on to find out just why so many of us suffer.

The human body is not designed to sit down at a desk for 8 hours a day or send 1000 texts a month to their BFF's, we are made to move. We are designed to walk, to run, jump, climb! Humans did this for most of our history until civilisation flourished and developed over about 10,000 years. Eventually, as we built machines to do the more labour intensive tasks, out work became much more sedentary. As we spend more and more time hunched over our mobile phones and staring at our computer monitors, problems with our necks and backs start to rear their ugly heads. 

I refer back to my title "Upper crossed syndrome" what is this? 

Basically, this is a muscle imbalance syndrome. Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS) can be characterised by:

  • Rounding of the shoulder complex

  • Shoulder blade misalignment

  • Forward head posture

  • Decreased stability or range of motion in the shoulder joint

  • Increased neck or upper back pain

This photograph of Mr Bieber is a classic example of 'forward head posture' this is not healthy from a biomechanical viewpoint and Mr Bieber will want to address this. This also shows that you do not have to have a desk job to contract upper crossed syndrome, it is often called text-neck and scholars neck. Not surprisingly because this condition can be caused by spending too much time with our necks bent forward staring at our mobile phone or a good book that you can't put down.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of upper crossed syndrome include:


Neck pain/stiffness 

Upper back pain/stiffness

Sore shoulder blades

Pain the jaws


Restlessness i.e. finding it difficult to sit still and watch TV  or get comfortable in bed.

Numbness, tingling and pain in the arms and hands.

Buy a good quality mattress and pillow. We spend one third of our lives asleep, you might as well be comfortable. 

What muscles are affected?

There are four main muscle groups affected in upper crossed syndrome. 

  • Tight Pectorals or "pecs"

  • Tight Upper trapezius and levator scapulae

  • Inhibited Neck Flexors

  • Inhibited rhomboids and serratus anterior

The above combination of tightness and weakness can lead to this forward head posture as well as the other symptoms listed above. 

Can it be fixed?

Yes! Upper crossed syndrome is a very fixable issue but it must not be ignored! Fixing the condition involves postural training, muscle rehabilitation and soft tissue work. This treatment plan is usually successful with good patient compliance, such as patients completing the home exercise regime and following the postural advice of their chiropractor, physiotherapist or other manual therapists. 

At Ashwood chiropractic clinic, a member of our team will assess you and devise a personalised exercise regime for you in order to make sure your posture is corrected and stays that way. 

How do I prevent it?

 Try to a take a break from the PC every 20 minutes, even if it's just a quick stretch.

Limit the amount of time you spend texting with your head looking down. Bring the phone up to eye level.

Practice correct posture when walking and sitting at your desk. Draw a little "P" on your hand then every time you see it, sit up straight. This is a good visual cue. 

Use lower back support in your chair if it doesn't already have it. Lumbar roll cushions are very useful. 

Don't jam the phone between your ear and your shoulder. Use a headset for extended calls.

Fix it before it becomes an issue. Your body will thank you and remember, your body is the only place that you have to live in (Well, that's until we can transplant our minds into robots...)

Thank you for reading.

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