Upper Crossed Syndrome, a disturbing modern trend

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Upper Crossed Syndrome- Prevention and Treatment

The term Upper Crossed Syndrome refers to a specific posture often seen in our technology-based culture today: Head jutting forward, slumped shoulders, and upper back rounding. For a good example simply look at anyone texting on their phone or typing at their computer and you will understand why this posture is becoming an epidemic.

The upper crossed posture occurs when we spend too much time in a rounded position at the upper torso and not enough time counteracting that forward position with exercise. Most of us sleep at night with a cushy pillow, drive to work and sit in a forward position for eight-plus hours, then come home and do more sitting in that forward position. For those who fit in time to get to the gym, they may do such exercises as bench press, push-ups and other exercises that strengthen the chest, but avoid strengthening the weakened back muscles.

Unfortunately, this posture is not without significant consequences. Over time, the muscles of the upper back weaken and elongate while the chest muscles become tight and short. These imbalances often lead to symptoms such as headache, dizziness, shoulder and back pain because the muscles are no longer allowing the body to move as it is designed to.

So how do we prevent it?

Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS)can be prevented easily by incorporating mobility and strengthening exercises into your daily routine to counteract the forward posture we all assume so much during the day. Examples of some exercises that can help counteract UCS are listed below:

Wake Up: Take 5 minutes to stretch your upper chest by laying on a pillow or foam roller placed lengthwise along your spine. Allow your arms to fall out to the sides and breathe deeply into your belly. This is not only good for your posture, but also your mental health!

Driving to Work: Make sure your mirrors and seat are supporting good posture, you should be upright with your abdominals lightly contracted, even while in a resting positions. Once in this position, practice squeezing your shoulder blades down and together at stoplights. You can also press your head into your headrest just using your neck muscles and hold for a count of 4 before you start driving and after you arrive at your destination.

At Work: Check your chair height do your feet comfortably touch the ground with your hips and knees at a ninety-degree angle? When you are typing, are your shoulders in line with your body (not reaching forward to the keyboard)? Is your gaze forward at your computer screen and not downward to your monitor? If these are areas of concern perhaps, you should look into an ergonomic evaluation by an occupational therapist to improve your positioning.

At the Gym: Make sure you do at least two “pulling” exercises for every “pushing” exercise.  For example, if you do three sets of bench press, do at least six sets of rows, pull downs, or pull-ups.

Before Bed: Do the “door stretch”; place your hands on the frame of an open door with your palms facing away from you. Slide your hands up the frame as you walk beneath the door. Feel the stretch of the muscles (pectorals) in the front of your chest and the stretch at the back part of your underarm (latissimus). Hold the stretch for at least five breath cycles (breathing slowly in and out at least five times). If your hands start to tingle or go numb, feel free to come in for a complementary sports injury screening.

What Should I do if I think I have Upper Crossed Syndrome?

Upper crossed syndrome can become very irritating and limit your ability to complete your regular daily activities. If you find that you have pain when reaching overhead, frequent headaches, or upper back/shoulder pain that won’t go away you may be suffering the consequences of upper crossed syndrome. It is best to consult with a professionals to evaluate your condition, as Wisconsin is a Direct Access state a doctor’s referral is not required in all cases for physical therapy, however a referral is required for occupational therapy. This evaluation will identify which muscles are too tight, too weak or overactive and then provide specific exercises and interventions to improve these conditions. Therapy is extremely beneficial for this condition and will provide you with strategies that you can use for a lifetime to combat the forward posture of our current culture.

If you would like to learn more about how Vita Physical Therapy & Fitness can help you reach your goals.


By : Colleen Baughn

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