What is it?
Upper crossed syndrome (UCS) is essentially a muscle imbalance pattern located in the head and shoulder region. As you can see in the picture, there is tightness of the upper trap and levator scapula (muscles along the upper back) which crosses with tightness of the pectoral muscles (your chest); and weakness of the front neck muscles crossing with weakness of the middle and lower traps. This imbalanced criss-crossed pattern creates joint and postural dysfunction along your neck, shoulder and mid-back.
What causes it?
We are seeing more and more people with UCS in the clinic due to the rise in desk jobs, sedentary living where people sit A LOT, poor exercise technique and/or imbalanced training (too much chest day and not enough focus for your back).
What does it mean?
Basically when a handful of muscle groups get TOO tight and others get weakened with lack of use, it can lead to a chain of events that results in shoulder and neck instability, pain and eventually injury.
Do I have it?
Look for these specific postural changes that are commonly seen in UCS:
- Forward head posture
- Increased extension in the neck
- Increase rounding of your upper back
- Rounded shoulders
- Outward rotation or ‘winging’ of your shoulder blade
If this sounds familiar, be cautious about what these postural dysfunctions can mean to your body’s short and long-term health as it puts you at a higher risk for chronic injuries! You may already feel the effects in the form of headaches, nerve pain in the neck or down into the arms, instability of your shoulder joint while reaching overhead or pinching in the shoulder blade with certain movements.
Stay tuned as we’ll further discuss strategies to tackle upper crossed syndrome!