That’s at least what I jokingly call the hunched over, rounded and internally rotated position that we scroll and swipe through our phones in and hunch down into to use a computer.
Today we’ll look at:
- Anatomy of Troll Posture (or Upper Crossed Syndrome)
- The muscles involved
- Long term detrimental affects
- How to be aware, honor, and fix it
It ain’t pretty, and it doesn’t bode well for your body in the long-term.
What do you mean I’m not pretty when I’m hunched over?
Anatomy of Troll Posture:
Troll posture is another (more vivid) way of describing Janda’s Upper Crossed Syndrome.
As you can see, there’s an imbalance between the muscles in the front of your neck/chest and back of the neck/chest. They interact together via that X pattern, where the lower back of the neck is “tight” (from trying to pull the head back up), and backside of the shoulders are “weak” (from being overpowered by the chest) and the front of the chest and front of the neck are shortened.
Take a look around you for a moment, and see if you can see this on another person. Didn’t take you very long did it? That’s because most people these days have Upper Crossed Syndrome because of our sedentary, hunched over a screen, daily lives.
You’ll notice on these that the neck appears forward (the ears are aligned in front of the shoulders), the upper back appears rounded, and the shoulders are internally rotated (collapsed inward).
By the way, now that I’ve pointed it out, and taught you what to look for…
You’ll see it everywhere you go, on everyone you see
The Muscles Involved
Remember that muscles only pull. This will help in simplifying this, and when it comes to understanding how to fix it.
This is slightly different then the above image:
- Shortened (over-pulled) in red:
- Neck: SCM, Deep Neck Flexors, Suboccipitals
- Chest: Pec Maj, Pec Min, Coracobrachialis
- Elongated (over-stretched) in orange:
- Neck: Upper trap, Levator Scap
- Chest: Rhomboid, Lower/Mid Trap, Latissamus Dorsi
As you can see quite clearly, the front of the neck and chest is pulling everything forward and downward, like a black hole exists at the sternum. This weakens the other side, which should be pulling everything back to stabilize and bring balance.
The Detrimental Effects of Troll Posture
Now you may have noticed that your body is rounded like so, or a friend’s is and they are without any pain or discomfort. That is because this type of injury takes time to manifest pain. Due to the change in your posture, the entire way your body moves has been altered. Over time this leads to stress being distributed in other places, places that wouldn’t normally have to deal with that stress.
Until one day…
Aka “I have neck/shoulder/back/hip pain”
This is usually via the process of overstability and compensatory movement. The brain restricts the fascia and joint range of motion around an area to hinder movement (stability describes your bodies ability to prevent movement). Since this area is no longer moving as it should movement has to occur elsewhere for forces like gravity, walking, lifting, etc to be transferred in the body. In the long term these compensatory patterns become normal for us up until pain starts to occur or someone (like you reading this article) points out what’s wrong.
One example of this is the Suboccipitals. They exist right behind your skull and attach to the very top of your neck. Your body restricts the movement of these as a way to stabilize and compensate for the head falling forward. Most of your rotation occurs in your neck at the upper neck, when this area loses its movement the rest of the neck has to rotate even more than it should to make up for the lost movement. Just like that, you have neck pain from undue stress or you can get headaches from overstressed suboccipital muscles.
The rotator cuff also gets seriously injured with your body in this posture. Shoulders that internally rotated and rounded forward decrease the space for the rotator cuff tendon to move. Over time the tendon gets worn down and may eventually tear or rupture. If it hurts to lift your arm over your head, you may have impingement via the tendon not having enough space to move.
More and more people are being diagnosed with Text Neck from over slouching over their phones. It’s becoming a very common thing in teenagers and young adults.
You can click the links above and learn more about each condition on your own, I think it’s time we start fixing it.
So pick your head up, let’s fix this
How to be Aware, Honor, and Fix Troll Posture
Awareness: Since you began reading this article you’ve probably become much more aware of the position of your head/neck and just how rounded you are over your viewing device. That’s a good thing! The path to healing always starts with becoming aware of the problem.
Now that you are more aware bring your head into a neutral position, roll your shoulders back down towards your back pockets, and try to bring your chin back enough to make a double chin so that you feel a stretch in the back of your upper neck.
You’ve more or less performed a Brugger. It feels pretty nice, the chest is expanded, the breath is easy, the neck feels supported, but the moment you lose this awareness and relax, you slump right back to where you started.
****From here on out, try to just become aware of whenever you are rounded. If you fix yourself at least once or twice for every time you view your phone or computer, you’re already doing better than when you weren’t aware.
Common places to slump:
- Watching TV
- Using a computer
- Using a phone
The common denominator there is sedentary sitting. I have seen plenty of people slump and stand with their phones however.
Honoring Your Body:
Ask any movement professional, this isn’t going to fix itself over night. In fact it will take weeks, maybe months depending on how exacerbated it is and how diligent you are in fixing it. The important thing is to stay posturally aware as you continue to move.
You ABSOLUTELY do not want to exercise or train with faulty posture, as this only makes it worse.
“What happens when you load a bad pattern?
You get really good at sucking”
Being great at sucking will either get you into porn, or will eventually lead to your body’s downfall
So before you work out, it’s extremely important that you warm up your shoulders, and seek to reverse your posture before you load it via your work out.
Teacher’s and Trainers, it’s also important that you address this with your students and clients. It’s safe to assume that almost everyone in your class was sitting and slouching for a few hours before they got into that space with you. So take a minute or two to warm them up into being a “normal body” before you warm them up for your peak posture, or exercises.
“Normal Body” Warm Up:
- Standing Shoulder circles, try to make them slow, and bigger each time you go around
- Cat/Cow, do a few of these, then hold Table Top Pose and do Shoulder circles with your hands on the ground
- Set the Scap: shrug your shoulders up to your ears, then slide them down towards your back pockets. It should feel like your scapula are glued to the back of your ribs
- If you are doing free weights, it’s important to do this move and hold it during the exercise so that the shoulders are properly stablized before you begin to load them with weight.
Honor your shoulders before any work out, and you’ll be lifting cats like Arnold pain free and with ease in no time.
How to Fix Troll Posture
The moment we’ve all been waiting for, the fix. Here’s some things that I’ve been doing on my own body, plus stuff I give to my patients, & my yogis.
*****If any of the below cause pain or discomfort, then you should not do them. Seek your nearest movement professional (like a Chiropractor or a PT) and get them to assess and fix it.
- Get To Know the Backs of your Shoulders: laying down face up with the knees above the hips, the legs bent to 90 degress, and the ankles engaged (toes to shins), bring your arms to a T with the palms face up to the sky. Flatten your shoulders then drive the hands down into the ground to feel the backs of the shoulders engage. Press for 4, Hold for 4, then relax for 4 (do 4x)
- Then do the same thing but the arms in a Y overhead on the ground
- This exercise and this imbalance reset are detailed here.
- Brugger’s: these are pretty good and most doctors give them. I get bored doing them and I feel like they’re a bit overplayed, but you can’t deny their results
- Tummy Time: any parent probably knows this one. How do babies develop their Cervical spine? By laying on their tummy and looking up with their head. Why not flop down onto your tummy and spend some time texting with your chest down and your head in extension? Chances are you wont be able to spend long here without it getting sore/uncomfortable. Take your time, and work in increments. (Ex: Start with 2 mins, then do 3 the next day, etc)
- Engage the Slings: The anterior oblique slings being short are what are pulling your pec muscles downward and inward. Stretch them and simultaneously strengthen the over elongated Posterior Oblique Slings with some yoga twisting.
- Move the Thoracic Spine: restoring movement to your Thoracic Spine will help take some of the stress of the neck, and the low back.
- Back Body Centric Lifting: oh man every time we go to the gym we all focus on the glamor muscles (chest, bis, glutes). Give the glam a break and focus on your Triceps, Post Deltoid, Lats, & Mid/Lower Trap. Rows are a great way to work all 4.
- Rule of Thumb: For every front body exercise, you should do about 4 back body exercises to counterbalance their relationship.
Here’s some more great yoga poses to help stretch, especially after a long day sweating over a hot computer, the front body while strengthening the back body.
These are just the surface by the way. You’ll have to stay tuned as there will definitely be more Troll posture fixes featured here in the future. I’ll also be further elaborating on what I’ve previously described in seperate posts.
I’ll let Tupac rap this one up for me 😉
It’s that simple, pick your head up, and start doing some of the exercises I detailed for you and you’ll be feeling tall, open, and amazing in no time.
Or, you can go back to slouching over your phone and computer, and eventually engage with your true troll potential by charging tolls and eating children under a bridge somewhere.