Upper crossed syndrome and its relationship to cervicogenic headache

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2004 Jul-Aug;27(6):414-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2004.05.007.


Objective: To discuss the management of upper crossed syndrome and cervicogenic headache with chiropractic care, myofascial release, and exercise.

Clinical features: A 56-year-old male writer had been having constant 1-sided headaches radiating into the right eye twice weekly for the past 5 years. Tenderness to palpation was elicited from the occiput to T4 bilaterally. Trigger points were palpated in the pectoralis major, levator scapulae, upper trapezius, and supraspinatus muscles bilaterally. Range of motion in the cervical region was decreased in all ranges and was painful. Visual examination demonstrated severe forward translation of the head, rounded shoulders, and right cervical translation.

Intervention and outcome: The patient was adjusted using high-velocity, short-lever arm manipulation procedures (diversified technique) and was given interferential myofascial release and cryotherapy 3 times weekly for 2 weeks. He progressed to stretching and isometric exercise, McKenzie retraction exercises, and physioball for proprioception, among other therapies. The patient's initial headache lasted 4 days. He had a second headache for 1.5 days during his exercise training. During the next 7 months while returning to the clinic twice monthly for an elective chiropractic maintenance program, his headaches did not recur. He also had improvement on radiograph.

Conclusion: The principles of upper crossed syndrome and the use of exercise, chiropractic care, and myofascial release in the treatment of cervicogenic headache are discussed. A review of the literature indicates that analyzing muscle imbalance as well as vertebral subluxation may increase the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for cervicogenic headache.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cryotherapy*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Headache Disorders / etiology
  • Headache Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Lordosis / complications
  • Lordosis / therapy
  • Male
  • Manipulation, Chiropractic*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscular Diseases / complications
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy*
  • Myofascial Pain Syndromes / therapy
  • Neck Muscles / physiopathology
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / therapy*
  • Posture
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Remission Induction
  • Syndrome
  • Writing