Poor posture, repetitive activities, and incorrect training can lead to upper and lower crossed syndromes.
What is Upper Crossed Syndrome?
Upper crossed (or upper cross) syndrome is a disorder where there is rounding of the upper back, sliding the carriage of the head forward. When the trapezius and pectoral muscles are overactive, yet the shoulder stabilizers and neck flexors or underactive, this “completely fixable syndrome” may occur. This impacts the trapezius, pectoral minor and major, levator scapulae, and SCM and scalene muscles, which are overactive. UCS also affects the underactive deep neck flexors, rhomboids, serratus anterior and scapula stabilizer muscles. The joints involved in this syndrome are the cervical spine, thoracic spine, AC joint, and shoulder joint. There are many symptoms that stem from upper crossed syndrome, including tension headaches, respiratory problems, TMJ pain, neck, shoulder, and upper back pain, and lack of shoulder stability with frequently sprained back, neck, and shoulder muscles. UCS is caused by “sitting in a hunched position with…shoulders and back rounded and head…forward” as well as whiplash, “poor sleeping posture”, and exercising by only working out the front of the muscles in the upper body.1
What is Lower Crossed Syndrome?
Sometimes called pelvic cross syndrome (PCS), lower crossed (or lower cross) syndrome also has to do with poor posture. As a result, the lower back has muscle imbalances. Prolonged sitting may cause this. Symptoms include weak abdominals and gluteal muscles, tight hamstrings, forward pelvic tilt, tight hip flexors, and “increased curve (lordosis) of the lower back”.2 Some other names for LCS are Unterkreuz syndrome and distal crossed syndrome.3 There are two types of lower crossed syndrome. If the lordosis is short and deep, the imbalance is seen in the pelvic muscles. A shallow lordosis that “extends into the thoracic area” presents with imbalance in the “trunk muscles”.4
UCS is treatable with the Active Release Technique, a method that many chiropractors use. ART works on trigger points and scar tissue to release muscle restrictions. Chiropractic adjustments can help move “stuck joints”. To fix muscle imbalances, it is important that patients can do exercises at home.5 Myofascial release and trigger point therapy may also help, as it is important to resolve “muscular adhesions and trigger points…before active/passive stretching”. Laser therapy and ultrasound might also be used. Some patients may wish to use a TENS unit, foam rollers, or tennis ball massage at home. Exercises prescribed could include stability ball exercises and shoulder blade retraction, for example.6 LCS can benefit from stretching, such as with the iliopsoas or erector spinae stretches. Stretches can help restore balance.7
1, 5 http://www.cpcinc-blog.com/2013/08/13/upper-cross-syndrome-is-so-common/
Learn more about the Active Release Technique.