Upper crossed syndrome, also known as "student syndrome" or "corporate syndrome", is a pattern of tight and weak muscles of the upper body that develops from improper postures. People with this syndrome experience pain or tightness in the upper trapezius muscle (the muscle in between the edge of your shoulder and your neck) neck, base of the skull sometimes in the top of the chest. This syndrome is very common and many people are plagued by it.
People that sit all day in front of a computer or at a desk are the most likely candidates hence the term student or corporate syndrome! Due to poor ergonomics, most people in these situations either find themselves leaning over a desk to read, or hunched at a computer typing all day. Prolonged texting is also a major cause of this syndrome. In order to maintain this unnatural position, the body has to continually contract certain muscles. If you hold that contracted position for long periods of time, the muscle will shorten, and the resulting tight muscles will produce chronic pain. The muscles that you are not using when in these positions, those opposite to the ones doing all of the work will eventually stretch out and get weak, making it harder to attain proper posture, thus perpetuating the syndrome. Due to the tightness of these muscles, people carry their head in a forward flexed position, where the center of their head is far more in front of their body, this posture straightens the normal curve in the neck and can eventually lead to spinal and disc degeneration. As with any muscle being tight for a prolonged period of time, trigger points tend to develop within the muscle, and this can cause referred pain into the shoulders, arms, chest or other areas of the back.
The muscles most likely to be tight on a person with upper crossed syndrome include:
- Upper trapezius (upper shoulder muscles)
- Sub occipital (Base of the skull)
- Deep neck extensors (back of the neck)
- Pectoralis major (upper chest)
- Levator scapuli (top of the shoulder blade)
The muscles that tend to be weak or lengthened include:
- Rhomboids (between the shoulder blades)
- Middle and lower trapezius (mid back)
- Deep neck flexors (front of the neck)
Due to the hours of texting, younger people are developing this syndrome, and are showing signs of early spinal and disc degeneration. Early detection, treatment, and instruction on proper ergonomic postures can help prevent this from becoming a chronic lifelong condition.