How many hours a day do you spend looking at a screen with your head tilted forward? Think about it. Chances are if you own a cell phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, you’ve spent hours viewing these devices. Other instances where you might tilt your head forward include watching television, driving and even reading a book. This constant state of having your head tilted forward causes postural alterations, often leading to faulty movement patterns, which increases the stress placed on the neck, shoulders, as well as the head.

Upper cross syndrome is described as a muscle imbalance pattern located at the head and shoulder region. It is most often found in individuals who work at a desk or who sit for the majority of the day and continuously exhibit poor posture. The term ‘upper cross’ can be broken down into two components. ‘Upper’ simply refers to the head and neck region, as there is a lower cross syndrome for the low back and pelvic regions as well. ‘Cross’ refers to the distribution of tight or overactive muscles, which crosses with weak or underactive muscles. Primarily, tightness of the upper back muscles crosses with the tightness of chest muscles, while weakness of the neck muscles in front crosses with the weak muscles of the mid back. Common signs and symptoms of upper cross syndrome include forward head posture, rounding of the shoulders, hunched upper back, headaches, as well as pain in the shoulders, upper back and neck.

The good news is that work station adjustments and appropriate exercises and stretches often improve posture and muscular coordination.

Below are some of the following stretches and exercises that you can do to help improve your posture:

Stretches:

Trapezius Stretch

  • In a sitting position, slowly and with ease, draw your right ear towards your right shoulder. You may place your right hand over your head and let it rest on your left cheekbone for slightly more pressure. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on other side. Perform 3-4x throughout the day.

Levator Scapulae Stretch

  • Similar to the trapezius stretch, the above stretch can be modified by gently pulling your head and directing your nose to your underarm region. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on other side. Perform 3-4x throughout the day.

Chest Stretch (Brugger’s Position of Relief)

  • Sitting on the edge of a chair with legs slightly wider than shoulder width apart, have your palms face upwards and lift the chest up. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Perform 3-4x throughout the day.

Strengthening Exercises:

Chin Tucks

  • While seated, look forward and bring your head backwards, as if you were making a double chin. Make sure not to tilt your head down. Hold this for 8 seconds. Repeat 5 times and that’s one set. Perform 3-4 sets throughout the day.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

  • Sitting comfortably on a chair with arms relaxed by your side, squeeze shoulder blades together without raising them. Hold for 8 seconds before releasing. Repeat 5 times and that’s one set. Perform 3-4 sets throughout the day.

This blog was written, and shared with permission, by Canadian Chiropractic Association.

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