Upper Cross Syndrome = Bad Posture

Did your mom always tell you to sit up straight, don’t slouch.  It’s bad posture.  Of course she was right!  Here’s the science to back her up. 

Slouching (think about how you work on the computer), or upper cross syndrome, is signified by rounded shoulders, head in front of the body and an apparent curve in the neck and upper back.  Chronically staying in this position weakens and lengthens the posterior upper back and neck muscles and tightens and shortens the opposing anterior pectoral (chest), neck and shoulder muscles.  This posture is often seen in the elderly and in office workers but anyone can develop it.

One can say that this muscular imbalance causes a person to look ‘unattractive’, weak, emotionally closed, sad.  Physically this posture causes headaches, neck and upper back pain.

To correct this bad posture engage your core and sit up straight.  Sit your head back on top of your shoulders (slide your chin back).  Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and pull your shoulder blades together and down. 

Regularly stretch your tight posterior muscles (pectorals).  Stretches are best done when the muscles are warm (after housecleaning, a brisk walk, a few minutes on a stationary bike).  Stand in a doorway with your arms bent 90 degrees against the door frame.  Walk forward until you feel the stretch, keeping your core engaged and your ribs tucked down.  After at least 30 seconds change the angle of your arms to 45 degrees and repeat.  

To stretch your neck tilt your head to the right (think ear to shoulder but don’t raise your shoulder) and then gently pull it some more with your right hand.  Hold for at least 30 seconds and then slowly tilt your face up towards the ceiling and again hold.

When exercising stop doing so many chest presses and push ups and instead strengthen your back muscles with various row exercises.  Also work on shoulder mobility with exercises that externally rotate the rotator cuff (with proper shoulder blade retraction of course).

A good practice to follow throughout the day is to at least once per hour pull the shoulders and neck back and hold whole squeezing the upper back muscles.  Squeezing and holding this posture will help activate the muscles you need to keep yourself sitting up straight.  Try it 10x.

Throughout the day also think about mom and ‘Don’t slouch!’.