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  • Shantelle Mercier

Upper Cross Syndrome

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

If you find yourself home more, not moving as much as you’d like, suffering from headaches, ongoing upper back and neck pain you are definitely not alone. This past year has brought many challenges and there are some easy steps we can take while at home to get yourself feeling better and moving with more ease.

We often feel discomfort in our neck and back when we are sitting more and moving less. This can be easily explained by a postural adaptation response called the “upper crossed syndrome”. Overtime poor posture tends to lead to a head forward and rounded shoulders and upper back appearance. Our upper and mid back muscles respond to the stress by becoming lengthened and weak, whereas our chest, back of neck and upper shoulders respond by becoming shortened and tight. This postural imbalance is further complicated by immobility in our thoracic spine.

Here are some simple and effective ways to decrease pain, increase mobility and get you ready for your favourite activities this spring!


Lying on your side with your top leg supported, arms out in front of you with your palms of the hands together. Bring your top hand up, opening up the arm like it's a book. At the same time follow with your eyes and head until your hand is on the opposite side of your body. Hold this stretch for a few breaths before returning to the starting position. Repeat up to 10 times on each side.


Begin by placing a foam roller or rolled up towel vertically along the entire length of your spine.. From this position allow your arms to fall out to the sides with palms facing up, adjusting the bend in your elbow and height of your hands until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for a minimum of 30 sec and up to a few minutes.


You can perform this exercise standing or sitting with your back against the wall. Start with the back of hands and arms against the wall in a “W” position. Slowly slide your arms up the wall only as far as you can while keeping those 4 points of contact listed below. Repeat 10 times. (If your posture won’t allow for this position you can also perform the same sequence lying on your back)


Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine. As you start to slowly inhale, look up towards the ceiling and arch your back as you drop your stomach towards the floor. On your exhale slowly begin to round your spine as you tuck your tailbone and look towards your thighs. Repeat this sequence moving with your breath up to 10 times.

5. SCAPULAR RETRACTION Attach a band around a secure object, holding one end in each hand. Start with your arms extended in front of you, shoulders back and relaxed. Gently squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull the band towards your rib cage, keeping elbows along your sides. Pause for a count of 2 and then slowly return back to starting position.

Repeat 10-15 times.

*If you don’t have a resistance band you can perform the same movement by simply squeezing your shoulder blades together and then releasing.

By ensuring that we are holding our body position in proper alignment, whether we are moving or standing still, can help to prevent pain, injuries, and other potential health ailments.

Blog written by: Shantelle Mercier, RMT, CSEP-CEP

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Marcy Speers
Marcy Speers

These are very helpful exercises that are easy to do in a short time; as I get older I find the reminders are so important to correct my posture. We tend to lean forward more as we age, and, by doing these exercises a few times a week, I am thinking more about making my movement better aligned throughout each day. Thank you Shantelle, your knowledge has helped me a lot.

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