Upper Crossed Syndrome; Revisited
Let’s take a look at UCS and review some important facts.
Each year, millions of people suffer from a condition known as Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS). Sedentary lifestyles, excessive hours working at a desk or computer, texting, postural changes and even improper weightlifting can lead to UCS. Upper Crossed Syndrome occurs when there is muscular imbalance in the neck, shoulder region and upper to mid thoracic spine. It can lead to more serious problems such as early degenerative (arthritic) changes.
How Upper Crossed Syndrome Occurs
Upper Crossed Syndrome occurs when the deep neck flexors, lower trapezius, serratus anterior and rhomboid muscles become weak or inhibited and the pectorals, sternocleidomastoid (SCM), upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles become tight or facilitated. Forward head posture, rounded shoulders and a hunched upper back are also characteristics of UCS.
Treatment of Upper Crossed Syndrome
Treatment is specific to several areas of the body that will aid in reduction of symptoms and correction of the problem. We will break up these regions and discuss them separately in order to explain in detail what we’re trying to achieve. The first area we will discuss is the thoracic spine and more precisely, the rhomboid and pectoralis minor muscles. Remember, our goal is muscular balance. Balance is key to overcoming UCS.
Correcting Lengthened and Weak Rhomboids
Upper Crossed Syndrome stretches/lengthens and weakens the rhomboids. This occurs as a result of tight pectoralis minor muscles that protract (pull forward), the shoulders. To counter this, it is important to retrain the rhomboids and facilitate and strengthen the muscles to function properly.
To execute this, we will introduce the Scapular Pinch or Shoulder Blade Pinch. To do this, retract (pull back), the shoulders and imagine trying to pinch or hold a quarter between your shoulder blades in the center of your back. Your palms should face forward and hold the position for 20-30 seconds. It is important to relax into this pose. Repeat two to three times and periodically throughout the day. This pose is similar to mountain pose in yoga.
Correcting Tight and Weak Pectoralis Minor Muscles
Since the pecs are tight, we need to stretch and lengthen these muscles in order to prevent shoulder protraction (pulling forward). Here we will introduce the Field Goal Pose.
Find an open door, place your right arm on one side of the door frame in an L shape and vice versa with the left arm. Now, take a few steps forward. The idea is to lengthen the tight/shortened pectoralis minor muscles. Hold this pose for 20-30 seconds and once again, it is extremely important to relax into the pose. Repeat two to three times and periodically throughout the day.
Forward Head Posture
Forward head posture puts a great deal of stress on the posterior neck muscles, cervical discs, ligaments, nerves and joints. To correct this we will introduce the Double Chin exercise or the Chin Tuck.
From a seated position, draw your head straight back maintaining a neutral position, meaning do not tilt your head down or up. When executed properly, you will appear to have a double chin. To assist you in this exercise, place your index finger on your chin and push straight back. This is essentially the motion you want to create. Hold for two to three seconds, then relax. Repeat this for a total of ten repetitions. Repeat periodically throughout the day.
These exercises are fantastic and will help correct Upper Crossed Syndrome, however, there’s one big piece of the puzzle missing. ADJUSTMENTS! Because UCS puts a great deal of strain and tension on the joints in the cervical and thoracic spine, it is essential to get adjusted. Adjustments will reduce joint tension, increase range of motion, lubricate the joints and restore proper function altogether. And most importantly, you’ll feel a whole lot better!
By performing these exercises throughout the day, it is possible to reduce symptoms of UCS and over time, resolve the problem completely. When sitting at a computer at work or at home, be sure to stand up once every thirty minutes and perform these exercises. Also, concentrate on keeping your shoulders off of your chest when upright and walking. Think back and down, and always stay relaxed. These exercises incorporated into your daily routine can help reduce or resolve migraine headaches, joint pain, muscular imbalance and arthritis.