Upper Cross Syndrome Re-training Exercises:
Upper Cross syndrome is characterised by rounding of the shoulders, slouching of the upper back and a forward protruding head and neck. Poor postural habits over time can cause Upper Cross Syndrome to develop. Upper Cross Syndrome can cause lower cervical spine and upper back aching and tension, base of skull headaches, shoulder impingement and in severe cases lower cervical disc disease and thoracic outlet syndrome.
A simple series of exercises can help reverse the poor postural patterns of upper cross syndrome if performed consistently.
Before starting this series of exercises, it is important to re-set the posture by following my standing postural re-training exercise found in the beginning of my Morning Spinal Warm Up series.
- Broom handle shoulder opening:
Stand with feet shoulder width apart, chin tucked and scapula retracted and pulled down. Grip broom handle with a wide grip. Lift the broom in a smooth arc above the shoulders and head extending behind the body to stretch the pectoral muscles and shoulders. Keep the arms straight, do not bend the elbows. Push to your limit of flexibility and then return to the starting position, this is one repetition. Perform 8 repetitions to complete the set, perform 3 sets per day. Each repetition opening the shoulders further and increasing the range of motion of the exercise.
- Standing wall slides:
Stand with your back against a flat wall. Contact your heels against the wall with your feet hip/shoulder width apart. Contact your sacrum (back part of your pelvis), upper/mid back and back of the skull against the wall. Roll your pelvis backwards to flatten your low back against the wall. Tuck your chin to stretch and lengthen the cervical spine. You should feet a stretch through the whole spine. Lift your arms to shoulder level and bend the elbows to 90 degrees. Contact the back of your elbows and the back of the hands against the wall. From this position slide the arms up the wall into a V shape then return to shoulder level with bent elbows, this is one repetition. Make sure to have the back of the elbows and hand contacting the wall throughout the repetition. Perform 8 reps and 3 sets per day.
- Prone arm extensions/superman pose:
This exercise is designed to increase the tone of the middle and lower trapezius and Rhomboid muscles to assist the shoulders being pulled backwards and down.
Lay face down on the ground or reclined chair at 45 degrees or a 45-degree bench at the gym. Straighten your arms in a V shape above the head and turn your thumbs up towards the ceiling. Tuck your chin and lift your arms/thumbs up to contract the mid back muscles. Hold for 2 seconds and release. Perform 8 repetitions for 3 sets every day.
This exercise can be modified with the arm straightened by your side’s fingers pointing towards your feet and palms turned towards the ceiling. Pull your shoulders up and your shoulder blade down towards your feet, you will feel a tightness in your lower mid back. Tuck the chin and lift your shoulders back to raise the chest off the ground. Hold and then release. Perform 8 repetitions for 3 sets per day.
- Foam roller chest stretch:
Place the backs of the hands on the ground besides your body. You will feel a stretch through the front of your chest. Breathe deeply into the stretch staying here for 3-5minutes or progressing with the stretch.
Progress with the stretch by lifting arms out into a T shape.
A further more intense stretch can be attained by forming an L shape with the arms. Let the arms fall gently so the backs of the hands eventually touch the floor.
Regular practice of this exercise series will help to correct the upper cross syndrome postural pattern. It is important to perform these exercises every day for best results. If any exercises cause pain and worsening of your symptoms then discontinue that particular exercise.