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Self-help Tips for Upper Crossed Syndrome?

Upper Cross Syndrome can occur in all types of people as it results from a poor posture. It is very common in people who spend long days in front of a desk with a hunched back.

There are some simple things you can do at home that can help reduce Upper Cross Syndrome from occurring.

What Does Upper Cross Syndrome Look Like?

The signs to look for are, a forward head position, rounded shoulders and neck, protracted shoulder blades (scapula) and winging of the shoulder blades.

Man facing right with rounded shoulders and a forward head position. All signs of Upper Cross Syndrome.

Visual of signs of Upper Cross Syndrome

What Happens to the muscles with Upper Cross Syndrome?

The muscles at the front (Pectoralis Major/Minor) and around the back of the neck (Upper Trapezius/ Levator Scapula) shorten in a content contraction. These are called facilitated muscles.

The muscles at the middle back (Middle/Lower Trapezius, Rhomboid Major/Minor) lengthen. This are called inhibited muscles.

We need to get the facilitated muscles to lengthen/stretch.

We need to get the inhibited muscles to re activate and contract to its normal range.

For more information on upper cross syndrome see my blog ‘how can sports massage help upper cross syndrome?’ .

What Can You Do To Help Upper Cross Syndrome?

There are three things you need to remember.

  1. Activate – Get muscle moving properly
  2. Posture – Think about how you stand/sit
  3. Strengthen – Get the muscles stronger


Don’t stay too long at your desk. Those with desk jobs are most at risk as they spend a lot of the time hunched over a computer screen.

Some offices are helping this by introducing stand up desks.

Try taking small breaks away from your desk, walking around; any sort of activity will help activate your muscles.

This also applies to those who work with their arms in front of them all the time. E.g. labourers, electricians etc.


Working on your posture is key; you do not want to maintain a rounded shoulder. Always think tall and imagine you are pressing a pencil between your shoulder blades.

You can try raising your computer screen so that it is eye level to reduce hunching over. You can do this by placing books under the monitor.

Look at your chair. You can put a cushion at the lumbar spine (small of the back). This will help prevent slouching.

Woman working at desk with a raised monitor to help reduce Upper Cross Syndrome.

Raised monitor when working at desk to help reduce Upper Cross Syndrome.

Man facing right with retracted shoulders and a neutral head position. Good posture.

Visual demonstration of good posture.


By doing some basic strength exercises you can help realign your muscles and improve your posture at the same time.

These are a few exercises you can do to help activate the inhibited muscles (in-between shoulder blades). A foam mat or soft surface is needed.

Front Raise Thumb up

This exercise for activating the rhomboids is called Front Raise Thumb up.

  1. You start by lying on your front head down.
  2. You place your arm above your head with thumbs up towards the ceiling.
  3. Then you raise your arms off the floor keeping your elbows straight.
  4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  5. Hold for 15 Seconds then rest for 30 Seconds (dependant on ability)
  6. Repeat 3 times.
    Man lying on front head down with arms out stretched above head contracting rhomboid muscles. Far away view.

    Visual demonstration of Front Raise Thumb Up exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome.

    Man lying on front head down with arms out stretched above head contracting rhomboid muscles. Close view.

    Close visual demonstration of Front Raise Thumb Up exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome.

External Rotation

This exercise for activating the rhomboids is called External rotation.

  1. Start by lying on your side with knees slightly bent and head resting on arm on floor.
  2. Hold the other arm in front of you extended, resting on the floor.
  3. Then slowly externally rotate (lift up) into the air to be in line with the shoulder, Keeping the arm straight.
  4. Pull the shoulder blades together. Hold at the top for 8 seconds then move slowly back down to the floor.
  5. Repeat 5 times on each arm.
  6. Can progress by adding small weight (Dumbbells or a can of soup)
    : Man lying on side with knees slightly bent and head resting on arm on floor with the opposite arm held in front straight resting on the floor.

    Visual demonstration of External Rotation exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome (arm down)

    Man lying on side with knees slightly bent and head resting on arm on floor with the opposite arm straight in air in line with shoulder.

    Visual demonstration of External Rotation exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome (arm up)

Scapulae Retractions

This exercise for activating the rhomboids is called Scapulae Retractions.

  1. You start by lying on your front with your head down.
  2. Place arms straight out to the sides at 90 degrees resting on the floor.
  3. Squeezing your shoulder blades together to activate the rhomboids and raise your arms up.
  4. Hold for 10 Seconds then rest for 20 Seconds (dependant on ability)
  5. Repeat 3 times.
    Man lying on front head down arms straight at the sides at 90 degrees resting on the floor.

    Visual demonstration of Scapulae Retractions exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome (arms down)

    Man lying on front head down arms straight at the sides with rhomboids activated arms raised.

    Visual demonstration of Scapulae Retractions exercise for Upper Cross Syndrome (arms raised)

Self-Massage At Home:

If you are suffering with neck or back pain at home after a long day at work, you can do something to help ease these symptoms alongside these exercises.

Self-massage is a way for you to deactivate trigger points (knots) or stretch out the muscles from home.

If you have a tennis ball or massage ball you can hold this against your neck/back muscles and roll.

Target the sore spots and hold it on them until the pain dulls or for 20 seconds.

The pain should never go over 7/10.

A woman’s back and neck, holding a blue massage ball to neck. Targeting trigger points.

Self-massage with massage ball to ease Upper Cross Syndrome.

Pectoralis Stretches

You can also try some pectoralis stretches, using a door frame.

Lean your arm against the surface about 90 degrees at shoulder and at elbow. Push against until you feel the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds then come off, relax. Repeat 3 times.

Keep it up!

To prevent or correct upper cross syndrome, it is like any form of training. You have to keep these things going, if you want results. Maintain these self-help tips and you will see amazing outcomes.

The chiropractors and massage therapists here at Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne can offer lots of self help tips and posture exercises, please take a look at some of the other blogs you’ll find here and have a look at our website.

Thanks for reading.








How Can Sports Massage Help Upper Cross Syndrome?

Upper Cross Syndrome is a condition that results from poor posture and inactivity. Sports massage is a brilliant way to help reduce the aches and pains that are associated with people who spend long hours in front of a desk.

Working in Eastbourne at Lushington Chiropractic I have come across many people unknowingly suffering from upper cross syndrome. They suffer with upper back pain, mainly between their shoulder blades. This is more noticeable after a long day at work in front of a desk or at a computer.

Image shows man who is suffering from upper cross syndrome

Upper Cross Syndrome

What is Upper Cross Syndrome?

It is a result of poor sitting positions adopted by people when working at desks for prolonged periods of time. Unfortunately for many the requirements of most jobs involve many hours in the same stationary posture resulting in the upper body slowly becoming hunched. This causes facilitated muscles (tightened muscles) and inhibited muscles (lengthened and weakened muscles).

The result:

  • Forward head
  • Increased rounding of the neck and hunching of the upper back
  • Rounded shoulders (Elevated and protracted shoulder blades)
  • winging of the shoulder blades (scapula), where the shoulder blades come away from the rib-cage

Facilitated Muscles:

Facilitated muscles are shortened, as they’re in constant contraction, reducing movement.

  • Upper Trapezius (tops of the shoulders)
  • Levator Scapula (top of the upper back)
  • Pectoralis Major/Minor (front of the chest)

Inhibited Muscles

Inhibited muscles lengthen as they’ve lost activation and cannot fully contract.

  • The Deep Cervical Flexors (front of the neck)
  • Middle/Lower Trapezius (middle of the back)
  • Rhomboid Major/Minor (between shoulder blades)

This imbalance creates joint dysfunction in the neck, the spine and the shoulders.

Image shows lady sitting in front of a laptop computer who has a poor sitting position which could cause upper cross syndrome

Poor sitting position could be the cause of tight or weak muscles.

Upper Cross Syndrome is seen in Swimming

As a swimmer for Eastbourne swimming club, I have trained and competed with some amazing athletes. Not many people know that in swimming Upper Cross Syndrome is very common.

In swimmers, due to the upper body power needed, there is often a tightening in the pectoral muscles. This causes a rounded shoulder frame.

If left unseen to, this can cause the swimmer problems during training sessions and also competitions, often leaving the swimmer unable to train. One week out of the pool for a swimmer takes two weeks to get back to the original standard.

This can be costly for competitors.

The Dangers of Upper Cross Syndrome

If you’ve got upper cross syndrome you’re at more risk of developing neck, back and shoulder pain or injury.

When you’ve got upper cross syndrome there’s more pressure on your neck joints and strain on the muscles around your shoulders and upper back. These get achy, sore and can even result in early wear and tear.

In upper crossed posture your shoulder blades may “wing” (stick out), which can pinch or catch on the tendons around your shoulder. This pinching can result in shoulder pain and injury (e.g. tendinopathy).

Image shows man with 'winged shoulder blades'. In upper crossed posture your shoulder blades may “wing” (stick out),

Winging of the scapula


How Can Sports Massage Help?

Sports Massage can be a brilliant tool to help reduce upper cross syndrome as it can target the individual muscles being affected.

For those “tightened muscles” such as the Upper Trapezius, Levator Scapulae, Pectoralis Major/Minor, massage can help stretch and relax the muscle back into their natural condition. We can also advise on relevant exercises and stretches to help improve things faster.

For the “inhibited muscles” massage can help reactivate and stimulate them back into working order.

Since working at Lushington Chiropractic in Eastbourne I have found immediate results. Massage can have a visual improvement after the first session.

It is important to work on your posture as the muscles will start going back into their old bad upper cross posture.

Image shows lady sitting correctly whilst working on her laptop. It is important to work on your posture as the muscles will start going back into their old bad upper cross posture.

It is important to work on your posture as the muscles will start going back into their old bad upper cross posture.

What Next?

For upper cross syndrome it is important to work on strengthening those inhibited muscles as soon as possible. For Advice on how to do so look out for my next blog, Self-Help Tips For Upper Cross Syndrome.

This will explore easy ways to help correct your posture in day to day activities, including when at work. It will also take you through some easy activation exercises.

Look forward to seeing you next time,

Lizzie your Eastbourne sports massage therapist


Get to Know Lizzie Wright

Getting to Know Lizzie

Hello I’m Lizzie Wright the newest member of the Lushington Chiropractic Sports Massage Team  – It wasn’t until I went to university that I understood that sports massage is not just useful to competitive sports people but is beneficial to everyone.

How did I find out about Sports Massage?

As a competitive swimmer I surprisingly didn’t have too much experience of sports massage and it was not until I went to university that it was fully introduced to me. It was my swimming ability that put me on the sporting spectrum and I quickly became very interested in the science that existed within competitive sport especially on how the body functions when exposed to the huge demands placed upon it during demanding training sessions and competitions. This interest ultimately led me to study Sport Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Massage at Cardiff Metropolitan University, where after three years of dedicated study I left with a first class (Hon) degree and full accreditation in massage. I was extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with the Welsh Triathlon and a full range of high quality sporting athletes.

Image shows Lizzie Wright and colleagues

Lizzie Wright at the London Marathon

I also thoroughly enjoyed massaging at the London marathon, the Cardiff half marathon and several British University College Sports (BUCS) national swimming competitions. I honestly thought I would not embrace sports massage as I was aware that some scepticism existed when I was competing. However through the positive impact I witnessed with the work I undertook at university it soon became one of my favourite modules along with rehabilitation. I am fascinated and amazed by how the body works, understanding  the effects that some everyday actions can have, and learning what observations and tests can be performed to accurately calculate what injury has taken place and as a sports massage therapist help and treat them (truly interesting and very rewarding).

What I love about Eastbourne:

Image shows Eastbourne seafront to accompany the blog getting to know Lizzie Wright o

Eastbourne Seafront

I consider myself lucky to grow up here in Eastbourne as I consider it to be a wonderful seaside town surrounded by beautiful countryside including the stunning South Downs. As a child I was always in the sea and whilst I learned to respect the sea I never fully understood the fears that were common in some of my peers linked to water: the fear of the ocean (the unknown) and being out of your depth. I remember being irritated if I could touch the floor as the sea always represented freedom and space and remains one of my favourite places to be.

What made me want to swim?

From a young age swimming was a large part of my life and has played a significant part in the person I have become. The facts as to how I first became interested in swimming are unusual as it was from a computer game which my older brothers used to play that inspired me. I was only three years of age and I wanted to be just like “Lara Croft” who was the main character and who did a lot of swimming during the game. So when I went to nursery school which included access to a swimming pool; I took off my armbands and started swimming breaststroke underwater.

Image shows Lizzie Wright preparing to swim for Eastbourne Swimming Club

Lizzie Wright preparing to swim for Eastbourne Swimming Club


Image shows Lizzie Wright swimming for Eastbourne Swimming Club

Lizzie Wright swimming for Eastbourne Swimming Club

I was subsequently introduced to Eastbourne swimming club, where I became Girls Captain when I was 13 and remained the captain for the next 8 years, until I left for university. I swam at numerous county and regional competitions and was selected twice to represent the South of England at the ESSA national schools competition held in Liverpool. When I went to university I was chosen to be part of the performance squad which meant I represented my university at the BUCS championships, held twice a year in Sheffield at the International sports centre. 2018 will be the first year that I would have not competed, which is a little strange. Competition was not my true motivation for swimming, it is simply that I love the water. I do like and enjoy training which is just as well as at one point I was training up to 20 hours a week at the same time as balancing my college education and social life.

Swim Teaching:

My involvement in swimming has changed over the past year to become more involved in teaching and training the next generation of young swimmers. I have become a qualified level two swim teacher and I now also work for a small swim school in Eastbourne called Eastbourne Otters, as well as volunteering three times a week to teach for Eastbourne Swimming Club. From teaching I have learned observations and problem solving skills as well as the importance of knowing every swimmers name (because it’s so important to them). Some of the very young beginners have a fear of water and it is such a sense of satisfaction when after a while, I see their confidence and swimming skills grow, which is an important life skill but it often also leads and introduces them to sport.

Working at Lushington Chiropractic:

I am very much looking forward to working at Lushington Chiropractic. Everyone is very welcoming and have high professional standards where their main goal is to help and educate as many people they can to ensure their well being and health. What I find remarkable is the way multi disciplines work together to truly help the individual client. Lushington Chiropractic is a place of excellence with a friendly atmosphere located in the heart of Eastbourne town.