What is Upper Cross Syndrome?
Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS) is caused by an imbalance in the muscles that surround the shoulders and neck. It is very common among people who sit at a desk working on a computer, drive all day, or text a lot because all of these activities are performed in a sitting position. Poor posture while sitting down is the major cause of Upper Cross Syndrome. Individuals with UCS exhibit forward head posture, increased cervical lordosis and thoracic kyphosis which looks like a hunch in the back, shoulders rounded forward, and winged scapulae. UCS can result in shoulder pain, shoulder impingement, neck pain, and headaches.
What muscles are involved in UCS?
UCS results from certain muscles becoming short and tight and others becoming long and weak. The muscles that become short and tight are the pectoralis muscles (responsible for movement of the shoulder), the levator scapula and upper trapezius (help move the shoulder blades up and down), and the suboccipitals (allow for fine head movements). The muscles that become long and weak are the rhomboids and lower trapezius (help push the scapula into the back pocket) and the sternocleidomastoid (flexes the neck). This combination of weakness and tightness creates an imbalance that causes the shoulders to rotate and come forward and rounds the upper back resulting in decreased shoulder stability. This decreased stability puts the shoulders at risk for injury. In the long term, UCS can even lead to osteoarthritis.
How is UCS treated?
In order to counterbalance the effects of sitting with poor posture, the pecs need to be opened up and the shoulders need to be pushed back. To hold this position, the rhomboids need to be strengthened. The pecs must be opened up before the rhomboids can be strengthened. Rubbing a tennis ball over the area while pushing up against the wall and/or foam rolling are great ways to release the tightness in these muscles. To strengthen the weakened muscles, various exercises such as scapula push ups against a wall are useful. It is also important to pay attention to how we move. Correcting poor posture is important so as not to counteract the treatment by perpetuating its cause. When sitting, the head should be in a neutral spine position and the shoulders should be retracted into the back pockets.
Scapula Push Up Tennis Ball Exercise
The doctors at West Family Chiropractic are well versed in identifying and treating Upper Cross Syndrome. If you would like more information about UCS, assistance with posture correction, more detailed instruction on exercises to treat UCS, or have pain/headaches associated with muscle imbalance like in UCS, do not hesitate to give the office a call and set up an appointment. Stay tuned for the next blog where the focus will be on Lower Cross Syndrome.