Upper Crossed Syndrome

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Psoas Deskinetics

Upper Crossed Syndrome is very common in desk users. It results from the repetitive nature of sitting at a desk day after day. Symptoms tend to increase with years of desk work and results in pain in the hands, arms, shoulders neck and back. When severe, it could also increase the likelihood of, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, loss of strength in hands, numbness, tingling and other nerve impingement issues.

In brief, Upper Crossed Syndrome is a tightening of the muscles of your upper chest and anterior (front) neck and a weakening of the muscles in your upper back and posterior (rear) neck. It also includes a tightening of your upper trapezius, the muscles on the tops of your shoulders and the sub-occipital muscles, just beneath your skull, behind your head.

Below is a brief description of what Upper Crossed Syndrome actually looks like. Check to see if you have some or all of these symptoms. If they seem bad, you will probably need some bodywork to help change the posture; if moderate, either bodywork and/or a focused and disciplined stretching plan. If you work at a desk and see none of these signs, learn to stretch. This postural syndrome is so common in long term deskworkers that you might want to take precautions.

Here are the identifiable symptoms:

  • Inwardly rotated shoulders (or single shoulder) – caused by the typing and mousing position. The pectorals (chest muscles) get tight and pull shoulders inward.
  • Raised shoulders or shoulder. Stress can cause the trapezius muscles to elevate the shoulders (the shrug). Poor desk set-up/ergonomics is the main culprit (keyboard is too high and the traps try to adjust the elbows up in a perpendicular elbow to wrist angle).
  • Forward neck that is caused by a continued forward gaze – a low monitor could add to the problem. Laptops are particularly bad for this.
  • Backward tilting head to adjust from a forward neck. If the head is placed straight on the neck, with a forward-tilting neck you will be looking down – the backward tilting head adjusts for this.

At Psoas we specialize in elimination of chronic desk-related issues. It may be challenging to implement, especially when they are long standing. It takes a strong commitment from the client for behavioral and structural changes to succeed. Nearly all desk-related issues could be avoided with some bodywork, stretching and knowledge. Our Clinical Director, Scott Schwartz, explains: