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Exercises to correct Upper Crossed Syndrome

I was recently asked by one of the members of the Sports Injury Group: “What exercises can I do to correct upper crossed syndrome and is it OK to continue weight training my whole body while I correct it?” In this article I’ll discuss what upper crossed syndrome is and why it can cause problems. Check out the video below for examples of exercises that you can do to correct it and advice on how to adapt your weight training if you have this posture.



In this article:

  • What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?

  • What problems can it cause?

  • Video demo of exercises to correct it


What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?


I tend to call it forward head posture because it’s more descriptive and doesn’t sound quite so alien. It is basically a posture where your head sits slightly forward compared your torso, your shoulders are rounded and you have an increased curve (kyphosis) in your upper back.


It develops mostly due to the activities we do for example:

  • Sitting with poor posture while working on a computer

  • Slouching while playing video games

  • Over-training the chest muscles in the gym compared to the back muscles

  • Doing strength training while in a poor posture

As a result of this posture you end up with weak muscles in the front of the neck and in the mid back between the shoulder blades (rhomboids, mid and lower traps) – this forms the one arm of the cross. The other arm of the cross indicates the muscles or areas that become tight which include the muscles in the back of the neck, upper traps, levator scap and the pecs in the front of the chest.



What problems can it cause?


This posture doesn’t cause trouble for everyone, but for some people it can cause headaches and pain in their necks and upper backs. It can also predispose you to neck and shoulder injuries when you do sport, because it decreases the space in the neck and shoulder joints – I explain this in detail in the video below.


I also find that my older patients tend to have much stiffer necks if they have a severely forward head posture and this can make it difficult for them to drive their cars safely. Lastly, it also just doesn’t look nice. In severe cases it can look as if you have a lump at the base of your neck.



Video demo of exercises to correct it


In this video I explain all of the above in more detail. If you’re just interested in exercises and how to strength train if you have upper crossed syndrome, start watching from 09:00.



Let me know if you have any questions. Need more help with an injury? You’re welcome to consult me online via video call for an assessment of your injury and a tailored treatment plan.

Best wishes

Maryke


About the Author

Maryke Louw is a chartered physiotherapist with more than 15 years' experience and a Masters Degree in Sports Injury Management. Follow her on LinkedIn, ResearchGate, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.




References:

  1. Daneshmandi, H., et al. (2017). "Bodybuilding links to Upper Crossed Syndrome." Physical Activity Review 5: 124-131.

  2. Griegel-Morris, P., et al. (1992). "Incidence of Common Postural Abnormalities in the Cervical, Shoulder, and Thoracic Regions and Their Association with Pain in Two Age Groups of Healthy Subjects." Physical Therapy 72(6): 425-431.

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