Upper-cross syndrome (UCS) patients often demonstrate postural defects such as forward head posture, forward or rounded shoulders, and thoracic kyphosis. These postures are becoming more common as computers and device use assumes an even greater part of our lives and can lead to weakness in the muscles in the mid-back and front of the neck along with tightness of the chest muscles and the muscles in the rear of the neck. Viewing the body from the side, if you connected the groups of tight muscles with a line and did the same for the weak muscles, it would form a cross or X.
A 2019 survey conducted by Common Sense Media revealed that 20% of eight-year-old children own a cell phone. By age eleven, more than half of kids have a phone and by their high school years, 84% own phones. As they age, kids spend more and more time on their phones, clocking in five hours a day as preteens and increasing use to more than seven hours a day during late adolescence. A 2023 study that included 45 teenagers found that 17 exhibited upper-cross syndrome with nearly half having forward head posture and four-in-five having rounded shoulders.
Adults who spend their working day in front of the computer screen and their evenings watching TV or using electronic devices like tablets and smartphones are even more likely to have upper-cross syndrome and the musculoskeletal issues that can accompany it. In another 2023 study that included 99 office workers with neck and shoulder pain, researchers observed that 100% had rounded shoulders, 43.4% had forward head posture, and 54.3% had thoracic hyperkyphosis with muscle tightness in the pectoralis minor (100%), levator scapulae (93.0%), and upper trapezius (98.3%) muscles—all hallmarks of upper-cross syndrome. A 2014 study found that about half of office workers have neck and shoulder pain at any given time and nearly a third report persistent neck and shoulder pain.
The good news is that upper-cross syndrome can be addressed with a combination of chiropractic care, at-home exercises/therapies, and lifestyle/work modifications. Your doctor of chiropractic may employ a variety of manual therapies to restore normal movement to the joints in the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Between visits, you may be asked to perform exercises to help restore good posture, which may include strengthening weakened muscles, like the deep neck flexors. As they will be more familiar with your unique situation, your doctor of chiropractic will be able to offer more specific advice with the aim of reducing your current pain/disability and lowering the chances for a future episode.
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