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Upper Cross Syndrome: Is this little-known condition the cause of your shoulder, neck or head pain?

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

Do you suffer from neck pain or headache? Maybe your upper back, chest or shoulders ache or twinge? When you think about your posture are you aware that you slouch and slump? Each of these can signal an underlying condition called Upper Cross Syndrome. We care for people with Upper Cross Syndrome commonly in our practice. Day in and day out. We have for years. It is a reflection of the world we live in and the work, we, modern humans perform. See, technology and sedentary lifestyles force the body into unhealthy postures for extended periods. Over time, damage mounts. As it does, this complaint arises. Why does Upper Cross Syndrome happen? Think about how often you sit at a desk, sink into your sofa, or look down to scroll through your smartphone. It’s a lot, right? For most people these habits are continual. This leads to certain muscles becoming tight, while others become weak. This sets up the foundation for the development of Upper Cross Syndrome because it is caused by muscular imbalance. The muscles deep in the neck weaken, while those at the surface layer of the neck and the chest become wildly tight. The trapezius muscle then complicates the picture. This large muscle fans out like a kite across the upper back; from the base of the head to the top of the shoulder blades, and extending to the middle of the back. The upper part called the upper trapezius, or “upper traps," tightens in Upper Cross Syndrome, while its mid and lower sections weaken. This distinct combination of tightness and weakness alters posture, irritates spinal joints and triggers further muscle imbalance. Together, they create a vicious perpetuating cycle. And, as you know if you’ve ever experienced cramp, tender points or aching, stressed muscles hurt! Let’s imagine: There is a drawstring tied to the front of each shoulder. Once pulled tight, your shoulders round forward, collapsing your chest. As they do your head is dragged forward. After all, these parts are deeply connected. But the body tries to return itself to balance; it will aim to restore normal, healthy posture. In the stress of doing so, some muscles run out of fire power (they become weak). Other muscles become shortened and in spasm (they become tight). To make matters worse, these postural changes limit the motion of your spinal joints. This places pressure on the nervous system and exacerbates imbalance, pain and dysfunction.

3 Simple Steps To Effectively Treat Upper Cross Syndrome If you have this surprisingly little-known condition, you join the ranks of millions. The silver lining is that there are simple steps to aid its reversal. At Flemington Chiropractic Center, we’ve been helping our patients to achieve respite and recovery from Upper Cross Syndrome for years. We know a thing or two. So, what can you do? Here are our top three steps for effective treatment. 1) Upper Cross Syndrome exercises Effective treatment begins with Upper Cross Syndrome exercises. Stretching tight and strengthening weakened muscles forms the foundation of recovery. If you’ve ever stretched to limber up or worked to strengthen a muscle, you already have the required skills. Stretching Upper Cross Syndrome exercises: Pec openers: This exercise helps to reduce tension and improve flexibility in the pec muscles of your chest. To begin, lay on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and rest your feet on the floor so you feel comfortable and relaxed. Extend your arms directly out on either side. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and, with your palms facing up, allow your arms to rest on the floor. You should feel a stretching sensation through your chest on each side. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Rest for a few moments. Repeat three times. Upper trapezius stretches: If you feel tension through your neck and shoulders, you’ll love this stretch! Sit with your spine upright, looking forward. Tuck your hands underneath your bottom on both sides. Tilt your neck to the left until you feel a stretch through the right side. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat on the other side. Rest. Repeat three times. Chin retractions: Because the deep neck muscles weaken in Upper Cross Syndrome, they do not sufficiently support your cervical spine. So it’s important to increase their strength. Stand upright with your back against a wall. Look forward. Tuck your chin backward. Hold for 10 seconds. Rest and repeat three times. If you’re not sure if you’re performing this correctly, imagine giving yourself a double chin. That’s it! 2) Expert treatment for Upper Cross Syndrome Improving muscle function is essential for Upper Cross Syndrome and exercises are key. But, as with any ongoing problem, there’s a good chance you’ll benefit from expert care. Why? This condition is accompanied by tissue changes and postural distortions that one cannot treat oneself. The expert’s tool box Chiropractic care: Spinal and extremity adjustments restore joint, nerve and proprioceptive function. This allows your muscles to rebalance, maintains your progress, corrects postural distortions and eases pain. Massage: Massage therapy works to breakdown adhesions and encourage healthy function. It’s great for reducing tenderness and contraction. Specialized tools: We use the Arthrostim and Vibracussor to effectively loosen tight tissues. 3) Correct improper ergonomics

As we mentioned earlier, assuming unhealthy postures for extended periods of time takes its toll. Muscles tighten or weaken, joints become jammed, pain flares. Yet the use of proper ergonomics reduces strain and allows the body to heal. There are a range of ergonomic considerations; too many for a single blog post. Books have been written on this topic. Tailored professional advice will provide you with the most appropriate advice.

The Take Away Upper Cross Syndrome is a common complaint. Neck pain, headache, upper back, chest or shoulder discomfort often results. Yet, there is a good chance this condition will remain undiagnosed except by a health professional with expertise in this area. Once you do, recovery is likely. The best way to assess and treat Upper Cross Syndrome is to seek expert assessment and advice. Chiropractic care, massage, the use of specialized tools and ergonomic advice are effective in its treatment. Book your consultation with us now. We look forward to supporting you on the journey to an Upper Cross Syndrome-free life.

Disclaimer: This Website offers advice designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice, treatment, or diagnosis of a healthcare professional. We recommend consulting with a registered health professional before implementing any advice.

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