The cervical spine (neck) is the very top part of your spine, in between your shoulders and your head. Naturally the cervical spine has a slight arch backwards (similar to your lower back).

What is cervical postural syndrome?

Cervical Postural Syndrome is characterised by poor posture of the shoulders, middle back and neck.

Typically there is a larger than normal curve forwards in the upper back, meaning the shoulders sit forwards, and a chin that protrudes forwards. Maintaining this type of posture throughout the day will cause changes to occur in your muscles. The muscles at the base of your skull (sub-occipitals), around your shoulder blades and chest muscles (pectorals) are typically very tight and sore. Other muscles including those at the front of your neck (deep neck flexors) and between your shoulder blades (rhomboids) become weak, compromising the stability of your neck.

Common associated issues

Leaving Cervical Postural Syndrome untreated can lead to a variety of painful problems:

  • Stiff neck joints
  • Temporo-mandibular joint problems (jaw problems)
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain


Physiotherapy treatment to loosen up your neck joints and release the excessive tension in your tight neck and shoulder muscles can make a dramatic difference. Any other biomechanical abnormalities present on your assessment will also be addressed.

You will be given a number of stretches and strengthening exercises by your treating physiotherapist, with progressions as your muscle function improves. There are a number of other self-management strategies that are also imperative to ensure complete resolution of the problem:

  • Heat – A heat pack placed over your neck and shoulders will keep the muscles relaxed, or release some of the spasm provoked by a sustained period at your desk. It will also provide quite a large degree of pain relief when your neck muscles become tense during the day.
  • Pillow – Unfortunately all the good work that you achieve with your physiotherapist and your physiotherapy homework can be undone at night time. No matter what good results you achieve, 8 hours of sleep in a poor posture will continue to hinder your progress. Your pillow should provide your neck with adequate support while maintaining a straight spine. Ask your physiotherapist for help choosing a correct pillow for your body type to ensure you maintain good posture even while sleeping.
  • Correct Sitting Posture – Poor sitting habits are the usually cause of Cervical Postural Syndrome. The increased tension on your neck muscles causes them to become tight and painful. So, improving your sitting posture is a key part in your rehabilitation.
  • Workstation set-up – In order to maintain good posture at work, the first step is to adjust your workstation to encourage good posture. This will not only help your neck but it will also prevent many other back and arm problems that are common in office workers.

Tips to remember for good posture

  • Sit right back in your chair to support your upper back
  • Use a lumbar roll support on your chair
  • Elbows should be at right angles
  • Raise your seat a little higher to ensure you don’t have to shrug your shoulders tp place your hands on your keyboard
  • Computer screen should be at eye level