Shoulder tension, with or without neck pain and stiffness are common problems that people seek chiropractic care for.

Often people who have sought care and tried different approaches for their problem, but the problem is unresolved or the results are short-lived. At Errol Street Chiropractic Centre we understand that a holistic approach can hold the key to some of this chronic or persistent neck and shoulder problems.

How Do We Evaluate Our Patients?

Our chiropractors firstly evaluate posture and then evaluate the alignment of the spine and the presence of any joint dysfunction. It is important to address mechanical, functional and postural issues in a person. We often find that this postural disturbance is missed and this can be the final piece of the puzzle.

The postural distortion that we are referring to is the ‘proximal cross syndrome’. This posture is a functional issue with imbalances in muscles in the upper body. We get muscular tightening of the pectoralis in the front upper chest and the trapezius and levator scapulae in the upper back. We get weakening of the deep neck flexors, that sit in the front of the neck and the shoulder blade stabilising muscles in the mid back.

PROXIMAL CROSS SYNDROME is characterised by:

– rounding of the shoulders (due to the tight pectoralis muscles and weak shoulder blade muscles)

– forward head position

– tilting of the head back

– flexing or bending of the upper body

Could this be you? Or someone you know?

This posture is also seen when someone is in a ‘stress’ situation (‘flight or fight’ ) and assume the same posture as described above. Any perceived threat will cause us to go into this ‘flight or fright’ posture. This threat in modern society does not come in the form of a lion or wildebeest, but from traffic jams, deadlines, or juggling too many things in our daily life.

Prolonged, persistent stress or poor posture due to lack of postural awareness or exercise can lead to this ‘proximal cross syndrome’. When this posture is evident it is important to address all quadrants of the cross and strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the tight muscles.

‘Proximal cross’ posture can lead to shoulder tension and a stiff or painful neck because:

– the forward head position can cause tightening of trapezius and levator scapulae muscles. Prolonged tightening of these muscles can lead to pain in the neck due to their attachment.

– weakening for the deep neck flexors can create instability in the head posture and aggravate neck pain


– rounding of the shoulders causes retraction of the shoulder blades leading to weakness in the shoulder stabilisers.


1, Work on all aspects of the ‘cross’ – strengthen the weak areas and stretch the tight areas

2. Make sure your spinal function and alignment have been checked as this is the structural basis for your posture. Chiropractic can help.

3. Be aware of the causes of this problem and work out strategies to create better habits.