Pain in neck and shoulder with stress and tension in it is very common condition in recent days. Many of us are working on computer and are usually in a slouched sitting position for prolonged time which leads to pain in the neck and shoulder area along with tension headaches. I am sure many of us are also hunched over with our heads carried forward and with rounded shoulders. A population with this kind of posture is increasing gradually as the number of sitting, managerial and computer jobs are increasing.
Someone with the upper cross syndrome usually has tight upper shoulder muscles, named as upper trapezius and levator scapula muscle, along the back of neck and tight chest muscles, like pectoralis minor and major in the front of the neck and chest, forming one diagonal of cross. These tight and overactive muscles become shortened and develop tension in them. Muscles opposite to these, which are the deep neck flexor situated in front of neck and mid back muscles like rhomboids and serratus anterior, become weak and lengthened which form the other diagonal of the cross, hence named as upper cross syndrome. This will cause one kind of muscular imbalance.
Upper cross syndrome goes unnoticed by many among us. People with upper cross syndrome usually are found to have jobs that require hunching over, which is found to be the main causative factor of their syndrome. On the other hand, people who have standing job tend to lean forward in order to do some work usually below the shoulder level causing the syndrome.
Many of us also do workouts in the gym and mostly emphasizing the front part of chest, known as pecs, and they develop more hypertrophied anterior chest muscles and upper traps. As the already weaker muscles lower trapezes and rhomboids becomes even weaker, this cycle continues leading to muscle imbalances.
Those who have upper cross syndrome would experience neck pain, jaw pain, pain in upper back and headaches due to the altered posture and muscle imbalance.
Over a long time poor posture and muscle imbalance leads to other complication like degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis. Upper cross syndrome can also trigger fibromyalgia, tender or trigger points in neck region, aching and burning in shoulders, a pins and needles sensation in arms and hands, rotator cuff strains and other shoulder problem and sometimes difficulty in breathing.
Diagnosis of this condition is easily done by a physical Therapist or other health professional. Postural education as well as a commitment toward maintaining good posture is an important part of the treatment. To fix upper cross syndrome stretching of the tight muscle and strengthening of the weak muscles is very important. Chest and upper trapezius muscles should be stretched and strengthening of the middle trapezius, deep cervical muscles, thoracic extensor and serratus anterior is important. Stretching and strengthening possibly require constant guidance of the physical therapist for achieving proper muscle balance. Massage therapy can also be a useful tool in the treating upper cross syndrome by relieving trigger and tender point and releasing fibrotic tissues that develops in the muscle and fascia.