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Cross syndrome. What is it and why should you care

Updated: Jul 28, 2023


Cross syndrome is not a disease, but rather a state of being that occurs when muscles in one part of the body become overstretched and weak while muscles in the opposing part become overworked, short and tight. This term was coined by Vadamir Janda, M.D., Ph.D., who researched the connection between different types of muscle imbalance and injury and found that they corresponded to one another across the body.

Upper cross vs Lower cross

The upper cross syndrome is a muscle imbalance in your upper body. It occurs when the Upper trapezius and pectoralis muscles become tight and over active, and neck flexors, lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles are weak and inhibited.

The lower cross syndrome is a muscle imbalance in your lower body. It occurs when the hip flexors and low back extensor muscles are tight and over active and the abdominals and gluteal muscles are weak and inhibited.

Cross syndrome. What is it and why should you care

Symptoms vary depending on which type you have, but they all include shoulder/neck pain or discomfort (upper) or hip/low back pain or discomfort (lower). Treatments for both syndromes involve stretching exercises aimed at the tight muscles and strengthening exercises aimed at the weak, inhibited muscles.

Why do we have these imbalances?

  • Poor posture. One of the most common causes of muscle imbalances is poor posture, which can be caused by things like sitting at a desk all day or carrying heavy bags on one shoulder.

  • Overuse. Another common cause of muscle imbalances is overuse—for example, if you have one arm that tends to carry more weight than the other due to your job.

  • Underuse. If a muscle group isn't used enough, it won't develop properly and may start putting out less force than it should be able to give off; over time this imbalance could lead to pain or injury in the unused area.

What are the consequences?

For some people, having cross syndrome can cause pain and discomfort over time. Neck pain is one of the most common problems associated with this disorder and many people also experience headaches as well as shoulder pain. Other common symptoms include low back pain and hip pain. Having cross syndrome also puts you at higher risk for injury during exercise or other daily activities.

How can we prevent it?

  • Correct posture

  • Correct ergonomics

  • Correct body mechanics

  • Correct exercise

  • Correct diet


Cross syndromes make us more susceptible to many pains and injuries both acute and chronic. Thankfully cross syndrome is preventable and reversible. If you would like to have an evaluation of your current posture and risk of injury reach out to the office today!

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