Upper Crossed Syndrome I

A few weeks back we took a look at Lower Crossed Syndrome (Part I / Part II) in which the glutes and rectus abdominus are weak and inhibited and the hip flexors, and lumbar erectors are tight and overactive.  Today, we’ll look at that equivalent in the upper body.  Again this is the pioneering work of Vladamir Janda.  He was one of the first therapists to document the compensation patterns, and imbalances that occur in the human body.  

Posture check!

In the upper body version the shoulders become rounded due to lifestyle and/or training habits.  These habits result in continual overuse in isolated areas and weakness in others.  This leads to a perpetual cycle of dysfunction and possible future injury.  

First, our inhibited, lengthened, and weakened group include the rectractors and depressors of the scapulae.  The lower and middle traps, and rhomboids, which I talk about frequently, are very often neglected.  When we sit at our computer for hours throughout the day we lengthen these mid back stabilizers.  Over time these muscles shut down and become inhibited.  Many of our training applications don’t do these muscles any favors either.  I’ve touched on problems associated with this area in several previous posts HERE.  

The serratus anterior also gets lumped into the problem.  The serratus shuts down at the first sign of trouble in the upper body.  Don’t neglect this important muscle.  More about the serratus HERE.

Alongside the retractors and depressors of the scaps are the deep neck flexors.  Again it’s easy to see how these muscles can become lengthened by sitting at a computer all day with the head up and chin out.  This leads to forward head posture.  The position in the end causes neck pain, and even compromises the shoulder.  

Upper Crossed Syndrome

On the flip side of that the pectoralis group including the pec major, and minor become extremely overactive.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand how this happens in our beach body society.  everyone knows the chest is the most important muscle group not only for sporting performance, but aesthetics as well.  

The backside includes the upper traps and especially the levator scapulae when it comes to tightness.  Again, I’ve recently talked about the problems associated with tightness in the levator scapulae.  Having tightness in this area leads to downward rotation of the scapula, closing the subacromial space, inherently leading to possible impingement, or even worse.  

All of this combined puts a person into a rounded over position with internally rotated shoulders and a forward head posture.  You can probably tell that this ins’t the most efficient position for the scaps to reside in.  As well, the mechanical axis of the gleniod fossa can actually become altered causing increased stress on the shoulder.  Other problems associated with upper crossed syndrome will include headaches, and upper back trigger points.  The thoracic region of the upper back will go into spasm causing pain especially in the upper trapezius region.   Clearing up this postural imbalance isn’t that hard to do but does take a concentrated effort.  In the following days, I’ll post on the procedures taken for correction of upper body crossed syndrome.


  1. The entire PATTERN of all of the soft tissue involved, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, their range, their relationships to one-another and the internal relationships within each muscle, resides in the fascial tissue, often referred to and relatively dismissed as “connective tissue”. Re-training requires interdicting and permanently changing this pattern. This is far more quickly accomplished through the application of Bowen Therapy ( see http://www.mckeithanptc.com/?p=3 for a lay explanation) BEFORE retraining exercises are undertaken. Recovery will be much faster, involving less pain.

Leave a Comment