You may have accepted the fact that your neck and shoulders are sore. You sit at a desk at work all day and the aches and pains are just part of ageing – right? Wrong. Those aches and pains are likely caused by something known as upper crossed syndrome (UCS). In the following article, we will break down what upper crossed syndrome is, how it could impact your health in the long term, and (of course) we provide you with ways to correct it. Keep reading to learn more.
What is Upper-Crossed Syndrome?
The human body was made to adapt. It is always finding ways to conserve energy by adapting to training, changes in the environment, and changes to our daily routines. Working at a desk for 7-9 hours out of your day is one of these routines that the body adapts to. Unfortunately, the adaptations have negative consequences for your shoulder health (amongst other things).
As you sit at your desk, your hands are in front of you with your head slightly tilted downwards and your chin forward (neck stretched forward).
Over time, this will cause your mid-back and shoulders and your neck flexors to weaken, while your traps and pecs become overactive and tight.
What Are the Side Effects of Upper-Crossed Syndrome?
As the body becomes more misaligned with upper-crossed syndrome, the functionality of this area of the body worsens. Your posture will slowly change and your head will be positioned ahead of the shoulders (from a side view), your shoulders rounded forward and down, and your upper back hunched.
The imbalances from this type of altered posture will then cause headaches, limited range of motion in the shoulders, and in some cases can cause tingling and neuropathies in the upper arm. And, of course, you will experience chronic pain in the neck and shoulders.
If untreated, upper-crossed syndrome can lead to chronic shoulder issues and can result in lost work time and an inability to complete regular daily tasks such as lifting things above your head and even sleeping comfortably.
How To Correct Upper-Crossed Syndrome
If you are experiencing symptoms of upper-crossed syndrome, there is a way to correct it. In a study published to the Scientific Reports Journal, they found that a comprehensive corrective exercise program (CCEP) was effective in correcting and improving the mobility of participants with upper-crossed syndrome.
There are 3 phases to the program and the initial phase focuses on simple movements that help to reconnect the participant with the weakened muscles while relaxing the tight muscles. Here’s a breakdown of the initial phase exercises from the study (images here):
- lay on your back on the foam roll in three different arm abduction angles (exercise 1A-C),
- side-lying external rotation (exercise 2),
- side-lying forward flexion (exercise 3),
- standing diagonal flexion (exercise 4),
- and military press (exercise 5).
Once you have regained the mind-to-muscle connection with your weakened muscles (mid-back and shoulder, deep neck flexors), you can move on to strengthening the weakened muscles.
In this video, Jules will give you a brief overview of upper-crossed syndrome and provide you with a number of exercises you can do to strengthen the weakened muscles.
Upper-crossed syndrome is a common misalignment of the shoulders, neck and head. This posture deviation leads to pain in the neck and shoulders, can lead to headaches and can lead to neuropathies in the upper arm. Upper-crossed syndrome can be corrected with a multiple-phase approach of corrective exercises known as the comprehensive corrective exercise program.
For custom advice and a training program designed to suit your individual needs, book a free consultation with one of our expert personal trainers.