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Massage Aha!

Professional therapeutic massage therapy in Kansas City, MO by Aaron Harris, BCTMB

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Massage for Upper Crossed Syndrome


Massage therapy is an effective treatment for Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS).

What is Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS)?

Upper Crossed Syndrome is a condition in which the upper trapezius, levator scapulae, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles become tight. At the same time, the lower trapezius and cervical flexors weaken.

UCS causes stress on the joints in your neck and shoulders. Over time, this stress can cause changes in the shape of the vertabrae in your neck and permanent changes in your posture.

Postural changes

There are specific changes that make recognizing UCS fairly straight forward. They include:

Upper Crossed Syndrome depicting weak cervical flexors, rhomboid, and lower trapezius, with tight pectorals , suboccipitals, upper trapezius and levator.
Upper Crossed Syndrome courtesy of Human Kinetics 2010
  • Forward Head Posture
  • Increased backward curvature of the neck (cervical lordosis)
  • Increased forward curvature of the upper back (thoracic kyphosis)
  • Elevated and “rolled forward” shoulders
  • Rotation and “winging” of the shoulder blades

These changes cause instability in the shoulder joint. To make up for this instability, the upper muscles of your back work harder to hold your shoulders in alignment.

Postural changes in Upper Crossed Syndrome versus normal posture
Postural changes from Upper Crossed Syndrome versus Normal Posture

Upper Crossed Syndrome Causes

  • Prolonged inactivity
  • Repetitive or prolonged periods of poor posture while working
  • Long-term effect of “tech neck
  • Cervical injuries, such as whiplash

How Massage Can Help Upper Crossed Syndrome

A knowledgeable massage therapist can alleviate the symptoms of UCS by:

  • working to release the reciprocal muscle pairs that are overly tight
  • activating and strengthening the muscle pairs that are weak
  • neuro-muscular techniques 
  • using proprioceptive techniques over multiple sessions to “reset” your body’s posture

Overly tight muscles can be released by a variety of deep tissue methods, such as cross-fiber friction and vibration. The trapezius and pectoral muscles are especially good sites to address.

Pin and stretch NMT techniques can be used to activate weakened muscles of the cervical spine, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboids. 

Book a Massage for Upper Crossed Syndrome

UCS is one of the most common conditions I treat. Book a session today to begin feeling better!

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