Upper Cross Sydrome

Do you have a tight neck, upper back or shoulders? Do you suffer from tension headaches? Have you noticed that your shoulders are rounded or that your head pokes forward? If so, you might have Upper Cross Syndrome. Most people have never heard of Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS), but they have seen it.  

UCS occurs when there is an imbalance between opposing muscle groups.  Pectoral (chest) muscles and neck muscles tighten, while mid and upper back muscles become weak. This imbalance results in rounded shoulders, an inward curve at the neck, and forward head. 

UCS is mostly caused by poor posture over time. While it used to be more common in older adults, it’s now extremely common in people of all ages due to increased use of computers, cell phones and sitting for long periods of time. 

The imbalanced muscles associated with UCS cause many people to develop symptoms that include headaches, neck pain, chest tightness, pain in the upper back, difficulty sitting or driving for long periods, and sometimes even numbness or tingling in the arms. 

Like most musculoskeletal conditions, UCS does not get better on its own… in fact it usually gets worse. With a proper exercise program and focusing on improving posture, you can improve or completely reverse the condition.

An exercise program should lengthen (stretch) the tight and short muscles, and strengthen the long and weak muscles. 

Below is a description of three exercises that can help, along with a video demo.

Chest Stretch on Wall

  1. Stand beside a wall, in a staggered stance (right leg forward, left leg back)
  2. Bring your right arm up to shoulder height and position the palm and inside of the arm on the wall surface or doorway. Your arm should look like a goal post.
  3. Gently rotate your upper body toward the left (away from the wall) to feel a stretch in the chest muscles. Hold 10-20 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
  5. You can do it for about 2-3 sets a day.


Chin Tuck

  1. Sit or stand up straight and have your neck in a relaxed position.
  2. Look forward and pull your chin backward as if you are making a ‘double chin.’ You have to make sure that your head must not tilt downwards.
  3. Then, hold that position for about 8 seconds. You may repeat it five times which is equivalent to one set.
  4. You can repeat this exercise for about 3 to 4 sets within the day.


Low Row

  1. Sit or stand up straight while your arms with a 90 degree bend at the elbows. 
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and slightly downward, which makes your elbows move back slightly. Do not elevate your shoulders.  
  3. Hold that position for about 5 seconds.
  4. Same as chin tuck, you may repeat it five times ( equivalent to 1 set)
  5. You can do it for about 2-3 sets a day.


Your Next Steps

These three exercises are a good start to help you improve your posture and correct muscle imbalances. At Ascend Fitness, we are here to help. We specialize in customized training programs that fit your lifestyle and abilities. We focus on functional training —meaning we translate every movement you make in the gym as progress towards a goal outside of the gym, whether that means being able to get up and down off the floor to play with your grandkids or hike our local mountains.

Our Fit for Life 6 Week New Member Program is the best place to start. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

Once you click the link to learn more, we’ll schedule a quick phone call to discuss your fitness goals, and what we can do to help you gain your strength and confidence back.  


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