Upper Crossed Syndrome


Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) describes a condition created by various muscle imbalances throughout the upper torso. Several muscles throughout the chest, neck, and shoulders adaptively shorten or lengthen over time. This can have dramatic effect on our posture and overall level of function. When the upper body is viewed from the side a shape of an “X” or cross can be made grouping the weaker and stronger muscles together.

Typically, the pectorals, upper traps, levator, and suboccitals become over active and tight. In converse, the deep neck flexors, lower traps, and serratus anterior become weak and inhibited over time. Common postural deviations like forward head posture, increased thoracic kyphosis and rounded shoulders arise. These deviations can contribute to headaches, neck/back pain, UE numbness, as well as decreased trunk, neck and shoulder joint mobility.

One of the leading causes of UCS is continual poor posture. Individuals who work desk jobs or sedentary individuals who spend long amounts of time on the computer, smart phones, watching TV or even reading can be prone to developing UCS.

Physical Therapy can be very effective in managing UCS. Physical therapists can provide treatment to address muscle imbalances to facilitate improved posture thereby reducing muscle stress, strain and pain. They can provide patient education on the importance of proper body alignment as well as to increase kinsesthic awareness of one’s posture as slouched posture can be habit. Therapists can also provide ergonomic education of work stations to reduce musculoskeletal disorders often sustained from prolonged or awkward postures. Staying active, taking frequent posture breaks at work and implementing a strengthening and stretching program targeting core muscles can be highly effective in keeping our bodies in balance and pain free.