By, Sean Light CSCS
Upper Cross Syndrome is a postural dysfunction in the shoulder region. Signs of UCS included shoulders being rolled forward, shoulder shrugging during exercise and extension of the neck causing the head to be pushed in front of the body.
Upper Cross Syndrome is essentially an imbalance of muscular tension that is fairly common among the general population. Muscles such as the Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, and Upper Trapezius muscles will have a higher relative tension than muscles such as Lower Trapezius, Deep Neck Flexors, Rhomboids and Serratus Anterior.
UCS is typically caused by people who train their chest more than their back. So if you grew up doing push-ups without doing exercise like inverted rows, you are a prime candidate for UCS. Other factors such as sleeping posture, sitting at a desk without proper posture for extended periods of time and poor exercise form are all contributing factors to the development of UCS.
These muscular imbalances cause some additional kyphosis of the spine as well as an array of problems resulting from poor posture.
One thing that I have noticed in my time training professional athletes is that most guys are Upper Trap dominant, meaning that when it comes time to retract the scapula, the shoulder blade uses an upward glide because their Lower and Middle Traps aren’t strong enough. This, of course, leads to UCS, so one way to help correct this syndrome is to strengthen the Lower and Middle Traps.
Another way to correct this postural issue is to create a chest to back exercise ratio that favors your posterior (back) side. I would recommend at least 1:3. This will allow for your posterior chain to gain ground on your chest muscles thus pulling your shoulders back to the proper position. Along the same lines, we want to make sure that we stretch the tight muscles to release tension and increase length. We also need to make sure we create enough Thoracic Spine mobility.
Lastly, it’s important to incorporate soft tissue work into the treatment program. For this particular region, using a lacrosse ball or a baseball work the best. Make sure you emphasize the Upper Trap and Pectorals during your myofascial release.
Upper Cross Syndrome is very common and should be treated in order to avoid future injury as a result of poor posture.
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