Upper Crossed Syndrome

By Chloe Sandberg – CC’s Staff

Upper Crossed Syndrome

     Upper crossed syndrome is a chronic body position related to prolonged postural dysfunction. More specifically, it is a state of chronic tightness of certain muscle groups with subsequent lengthening and inhibition of other muscle groups. The muscle groups that get tight include the anterior chest wall or pecs, and the muscles along the back of the neck and shoulders being mostly the upper traps and levators. These muscle groups actually run along the same fascial lines as one another, so tightness in one goes hand in hand with tightness in the other. The muscle groups that then become lengthened and inhibited, or are pulled essentially “out of whack” so they can’t activate properly, are the deep neck flexors that live on the front of the neck, and the scapular/shoulder blade stabilizers that live in the mid to upper back. The scapular stabilizers commonly affected are the serratus anterior, which is responsible for keeping your shoulder blades tight to your body (some of you may have heard of scapular winging?), and the rhomboids, responsible for keeping the shoulder blades pulled back towards the midline.

     Upper crossed syndrome is commonly seen in patients that work desk jobs/in front of a computer screen for many hours. I’ll let you in on a little secret.. the human body is inherently lazy. The body doesn’t want to have to “work” to stay in a certain posture or more optimal posture. You are normal if you find yourself in this upper crossed posture as seen above! BUT if you find yourself in this posture for many hours of the day, or you are unable to move your body into and out of this position, worse things can happen. We see increased neck pain, upper back pain and stiffness, increased headaches, and jaw pain related to being in this position for long durations of time. Even if you aren’t finding yourself in any great amounts of pain YET despite being in this posture, check yourself regularly to make sure you are able to move out of it. Stand with your back against the wall, head, shoulder blades, and butt all touching the wall, and trace your arms up into a semi-circle like you are making a snow angel (it is called a wall angel!). This is a great, simple, and fast corrective exercise to get the muscles along the back of your neck and upper back to activate, and to pull those shoulder blades back into position.

     If you are wondering, hmmm, does that picture above look like me?? Or if you have any history of or current neck pain, upper back pain/stiffness, jaw pain, or headaches, AND you work at a desk/computer for many hours, chances are good you might be stuck in the upper crossed syndrome pattern! We can help you work out of that static posture and teach you the handful of very useful exercises and stretches to keep you more functional! I look forward to helping you 😊

Post Author: Chloe Sandberg

Chloe is a PT, wife, new mommy to sweet Leigha, MN to ND transplant, exerciser obsessed with food, Star Wars and Game of Thrones fangirl


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