What Is Upper Cross Syndrome?

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Most people agree that poor posture is rampant in today’s world, but did you also know that some syndromes and chronic conditions can result from poor posture? One such condition is called Upper Cross Syndrome, also known as UCS and sometimes also called Upper Crossed Syndrome. This occurs when the muscles in the upper back and neck overcompensate for weaker muscles in other areas of the body, such as the mid-back, chest, and shoulders.

When you have poor posture for an extended period of time, particularly rounding of the shoulders and with the head leaning forward in front of the shoulders, it impacts your muscles a lot. Specifically, the muscles in the mid-back are weakened by sitting or standing improperly, leaving the muscles in the upper back and neck to work harder and become overactive. Not only does this cause tension and discomfort in these areas, leading to additional changes to posture to account for the pain, but it also leads to weak, tight, and shortened muscles in the chest and shoulders.

Causes and Symptoms of Upper Crossed Syndrome

This imbalance of muscle tone, strength, and size leads to increasingly worse posture and, when left untreated, can cause upper cross syndrome. The sole cause is generally poor posture, but rarely congenital abnormalities or injuries can also cause UCS. Having poor posture typically begins with sitting or standing in the same position for extended periods of time, particularly when in front of a computer, watching TV, or looking at cell phones and tablets. Biking, driving, and reading can also introduce symptoms of upper cross syndrome. Long-term poor posture is what brings about this condition, and without lifestyle changes and changes in posture, it will only worsen over time.

In many cases, symptoms are visible to the naked eye. The primary symptoms include a rounded and stooped back, rounded shoulders, and a neck that is bent forward, otherwise known as forward head posture. Other symptoms of upper cross syndrome include neck pain, headaches, jaw pain, fatigue, lower back pain, poor range of motion in the neck and shoulders, and numbness and/or tingling in the upper arms. Additionally, individuals with UCS may experience tension and strain in the back of the neck, pain in the upper back and shoulders, weakness in the front of the neck, and tightness or pain in the chest. Trouble sitting, standing, or driving for long periods of time may also result from upper crossed syndrome.

How Chiropractic Care Can Help with UCS

Because upper cross syndrome deals with the musculoskeletal system, muscle imbalance, and posture, chiropractic care is a great way to treat the causes and improve the symptoms of UCS. Chiropractic care aims to realign the spine which helps balance muscle tightness, strain, and weakness, and it can improve posture by reducing pain. To learn more about upper crossed syndrome and how neurologically-based chiropractic care can help you, contact Charlotte chiropractor Dr. Grant Lisetor and his team at Greater Life Chiropractic.


Kim, E., Kim, J.S. “Correlation between rounded shoulder posture, neck disability indices, and degree of forward head posture.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 2016 Oct; 28(10): 2929–2932. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5088155/

Moore, M.K. “Upper crossed syndrome and its relationship to cervicogenic headache.” Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapy, Jul-Aug 2004; 27(6): 414-20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15319765/


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