What is Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS)?
Although you may not have heard of UCS, chances are that you may already have it to some degree. It is most commonly seen in the elderly, office workers and athletes and is one of the most common postural conditions in young and old. There are two main characteristics of UCS. Put simply, it is the weakening and lengthening of the upper back and posterior neck muscles and the shortening of the chest and anterior neck muscles. UCS is commonly caused by one or more of the following factors sustained over a long period of time: (a) Prolonged periods of sitting at a desk which is often seen in office workers; (b) Exercising with a poor technique; or (c) Imbalanced training which is often seen in bodybuilders, who only train their pectorals and rarely their upper posterior muscles.
Signs and Symptoms
Postural changes that are evident of UCS include a forward head posture, increased curvature of the upper back and elevated/rounded shoulders. The effect of this has many implications on the body and long term quality of life, including:
- Decreased stability of the shoulder joint and the potential for joint degeneration.
- Increased risk of injury.
- Chronic pain in the shoulders, upper back and neck muscles
To properly correct UCS, there are several treatment modalities that need to be employed.
Firstly, self myofascial release can be utilised to eliminate trigger points (muscle knots) that have developed as a result of muscle imbalances. This involves properly identifying the location of trigger points and using a foam roller or massage ball to gradually break up the contracted tissue.
Secondly, objectively identify tight and overactive musculature can be used, then gradually lengthening affected muscles, using static and neuromuscular stretching techniques.
Lastly, strengthening underactive or weak and lengthened musculature. This will enhance muscular recruitment and improve movement patterns, while correcting any postural imbalances.