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If you are one of the thousands of people who are constantly looking down at your phone or spending hours working with your head jutted forward, if you’re slouching, postural changes like this lead to a condition called upper crossed syndrome.
Let’s see what is this condition, what are the causes and how to fix upper crossed syndrome.
Upper Crossed Syndrome
Upper crossed syndrome (UCS), occurs when the muscles in the neck, shoulders, and chest become deformed, usually as a result of poor posture. Some call it ‘forward head posture’ – head migrates forward, you get rounded up back, as a result, you also get rounded shoulders.
The muscles that are typically the most affected are muscles in the front of the neck-deep layer of stability muscles in the neck – they weaken; muscles in the middle of your scapula (between your shoulder blades) – also weaken; on the other hand neck extends become tensed and the muscles in the front of the chest (major and minor pectoralis), become tight and shortened.
The overactive muscles and underactive muscles can then overlap, causing an X shape to develop.
Different movements can cause the upper crossed syndrome, but most cases develop through poor posture, specifically sitting or standing with the head forward for prolonged periods.
Activities that promote this postural position include:
- computer, laptop, phone use
- watching TV
- cellphone browsing, texting, app, or game use
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Common characteristics of upper crossed syndrome include:
- the head is consistently or often in a forward position
- inward curvature in the portion of the spine and neck
- elevated, protracted, or rounded shoulders, where the muscles are in a continuous state of being pulled or stretched forward
- the visible portion of the shoulder blade sits out instead of lying flat
The deformed muscles associated with upper cross syndrome put stress on the surrounding muscles, tendons, bones, and joints, causing most people to develop symptoms that include:
- neck pain
- strain in the back of the neck and often a weakness in the front
- chest pain and tightness
- pain in the upper back, especially the shoulders
- pain in the jaws
- difficulty sitting, reading, and watching TV
- restricted range of motion in the neck or shoulders
- numbness, tingling, and pain in the upper arms
- lower back pain
How To Fix Upper Crossed Syndrome
The best way to treat upper crossed syndrome is through stretching what’s tight and strengthening what’s weakened. These exercises will help you with that:
- Upper Back Wall Stretch
- Stand facing a wall (one outstretched arms distance away)
- Put your hands on the wall, as high up as possible keeping the arms parallel.
- Lean into the wall and slide the palms down, arching your back.
- Work on bringing the chin and chest as close to the wall as possible.
- Shoulder Wall Stretch
The wall stretch can provide quick and effective relief to your shoulders and neck.
- Place both hands on a wall and walk your feet back until your arms are straight and form a 90-degree angle with your body.
- Start bending from the hips until you feel the stretch in your shoulders.
- Hold this stretch for 15 – 30 seconds.
- Wall Angel Exercise
The wall angel exercise is exceptionally good at strengthening the back and improving body posture.
- Stand with your back against the wall. Your arms should be spread aside at shoulder level, bent at elbows (90-degrees)
- The wrists and elbows, head and shoulders, the back, rear, and heels should all touch the wall (if not possible, try to bring your heels as close to the wall as possible)
- Try to bring your lower back as close to the wall as possible
- Raise your hands slowly till they are over your head
- Lower your hands till your elbows are even with your shoulders
- Repeat five to ten times
- Neck release
This is a gentle way to loosen tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Lower your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
- Gently tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Do each side 3 – 5 times.
- Stretch The Back of Your Neck
- Lie down on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
- If you’re very tight so your head can’t lye flat on the ground, put a pillow below your head.
- Now, tuck your chin in, so you stretch the back of your neck.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, then release
- Repeat several times
Note: Do not move your stomach and lower back while doing this. If it’ll help you, put your hands on your belly to remind you
- The Corner Stretch
Focused on releasing tightness in upper chest and shoulders
- Place your forearms and palms on either side of the wall at approximately shoulder level.
- Exhale, and pulling your lower abdominal muscles into your spine, lean toward the wall. You only need to go to the point where it feels challenging but causes no pain or discomfort. It’s more important to move your whole body as a unit, and not bend anywhere along the chain.
- Hold the position for between 5-30 seconds, then come back to start.
- Repeat 5 to 10 times
- The Doorway Stretch
- Stand in an open doorway. Raise each arm up to the side, bent at 90-degree angles with palms forward. Rest your palms on the door frame.
- Slowly step forward with one foot. Feel the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Stand upright and don’t lean forward.
- Hold for 30 seconds. Step back and relax
- Repeat 3 times
Fixing upper crossed syndrome doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll have to be very persistent and, even besides these exercises, always aware of your posture, putting conscious efforts to have the best possible posture, including proper sitting posture at work or home.
Thank you for reading this article. If you have any question, or want to leave a comment – impression, suggestion, your thoughts, experience… please do so in the comment section below, and I’ll be happy to help you out.