Upper Crossed Syndrome

Bryan Lang

Author: Bryan Lang, PT, DPT, MHA, CSCS, Cert.DN: Doctor of Physical Therapy, Business Owner, Associate Professor, and Blog Contributor. Explores common client questions, helps find solutions for every day functional health concerns, and interprets difficult theories in healthcare rehabilitation. Committed to life-long learning and education. Learn moe about Bryan on Google+ .

A lot of us have it, and few of us want to admit it Upper Crossed Syndrome is a widespread in America due to the sedentary and repetitive nature of many occupations. 

What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?

Upper Crossed Syndrome is a pattern of tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapulae on the back side of your body (picture the spot where you carry the tension in your neck) crossed with tightness of the pectoralis major and minor muscles of the chest. 

There is also a correlation with weakness in the cervical spine flexors (the muscles in the front of your neck) crossed with weakness in the middle and lower trapezius (the muscles of your upper mid back). 

In essence, Upper Crossed Syndrome is a combination of muscle tightness and muscle weakness from your neck to your shoulders which results in a forward head, rounded shoulders and a rounded (kyphotic) thoracic spine. 

Are those the only muscles involved?

No, there are many muscles involved with this syndrome. There are even more muscles that are associated with tightness than the ones mentioned above. The muscles not mentioned can be muscles secondarily affected by Upper Crossed Syndrome. This includes tightness in the strenocleidomastoid muscle of your neck and weakness in the serratus anterior and rhomboid major/minor of your mid back and shoulder blade. 

Upper Crossed Syndrome

What can happen if your have Upper Crossed Syndrome:

This syndrome is a common contributor to neck and shoulder pain. It is also considered a culprit for other major issues in the future, like non-traumatic rotator cuff tears, and/or disc injuries to your lower cervical spine (particularly C5/C6).

How can you treat it?

Stretch the muscles that are tight, strengthen the muscles that are weak. However, Dr. Janda, the man who coined the term Upper Cross Syndrome, believed that some people were more genetically susceptible to this than others.  A skilled movement specialist can be critical in identifying Upper Crossed Syndrome and proving treatment in the form tailored exercises focused at reversing the syndrome.