Stretches for Upper Cross Syndrome

Stretches for Upper Cross Syndrome

Upper cross syndrome describes a compromise in the musculoskeletal system characterized by tight chest, neck and shoulder muscles, primarily in the front of your body. Weakness occurs in your upper back and posterior neck muscles. Stretching your tight muscles is part of the treatment process to combat headaches and pain in your upper back associated with upper cross syndrome.

Basic Guidelines

Stretches for upper cross syndrome are like other stretches in that the muscles are best stretched warm. Perform stretches after a five-minute aerobic warm-up. Stretching cold muscles is dangerous because injury is more likely. Hold each of the following stretches for 15 to 20 seconds at a minimum or they are not as effective, says Kevin Ferrell, CA, CFT, on

Shoulder Blade Kissing

The shoulder blade kissing stretch opens the front of your torso. Every hour, check and correct your posture. Retract your shoulders and neck, and try to make your shoulder blades kiss and pause. This is a stretch and a reminder to stand tall. It also strengthens your weak upper back muscles.

Pec Major -- Clavicular Portion

The pec major is the bigger of the two chest muscles, and it is actually two muscles: the clavicular portion on top and the sternal portion on the bottom. To stretch the clavicular portion, stand in the corner of a room and place your palms and forearms on each wall. Slide the arms up so that, with them at 90-degree angles, your elbows align with your armpits. Lean forward until you feel a stretch.

Pec Major -- Sternal Portion

The pec major sternal portion is bigger than the clavicular portion. The clavicular stretch is more common than the sternal stretch, yet both are important. To perform this stretch, stand in the corner with the arms against the walls as in the other stretch. Open the forearms outward to point at 45-degree angles away from the body. Lean forward until the stretch is felt, and hold.


The scalenes are muscles in the sides of the neck. To stretch the right scalene, tilt your head to the left and pull the neck gently sideways using your left hand with the palm over the right ear. Twist your head slowly to look upwards until you feel the stretch in the side of your neck. Do the same for the left side. You can either sit or stand when doing this stretch.