Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scapular Movement and Why You Should Care!

 One of the most common postural and mechanical problems is a lack of scapular (shoulder blade) movement which typically takes the form of forward rolled shoulders and winged shoulder blades (bottom of the shoulder blade sitting off your rib cage) and can cause a whole host of common complaints. These complaints can include, but are not limited to, neck and upper back pain, headaches, and shoulder injuries.

A properly functioning scapular girdle (the muscles that stabilize and move the shoulder blade) should be able to elevate, depress, protract (forward), and retract (shoulder blades squeezing together) the scapula. Most people can elevate their shoulders; it is the other movements that we struggle with. We see a lot of trapezius dominance (the muscles that shrug your shoulders). Most people move the shoulders forward using their traps. This is wrong and may cause problems.

One major concern for people who have forward rolled shoulders is what is known as “impingement syndrome”. Impingement syndrome occurs when the head of the humerus (top of the upper arm bone) comes too close to the acromion (the lateral off-shoot of the shoulder blade) causing a pinching of the underlying tendons, which can create the most common rotator cuff injury. Because this space is narrowed, it is a constant negative feedback cycle in that the irritated tendon swells and thickens which, in turn, deceases the space, which then causes more pinching, and more swelling.

Below is a series of exercises designed to restore proper scapular mobility and relieve the aforementioned complaints!
 T / A Holds on a Stability Ball
With your chest on the ball and your thumbs pointed at the ceiling slowly move from a T position to an A position with your arms.
Make sure you are squeezing your shoulder blades together and that your chin is tucked to your chest.
Repeat this 12 times per position holding each position for 2 seconds.

Wall Push-Up Plus
Standing facing a wall with your arms extended and your hands against the wall. Slowly push 'through' the wall causing your upper back to arch horizontally.
Make sure that you are not feeling this in your neck or your traps (top of your shoulders).
Hold this pressure on the wall for 1 second and then repeat 12 times.

Wall Angels
While leaning against the wall with your upper back, heels 6 inches away from the wall, slowly slide your hands up while keeping your wrists and elbows in contact with the wall at all times.
Push the stretch in your shoulders until it is at a 3-4 out of 10 intensity level and repeat 12 times.

Scapular Retractions
Using an exercise band that is attached to the top of a door or the roof slowly draw your shoulder blades down and together. Your arms should remain totally straight throughout this exercise.

It is important to note that, if you have a serious shoulder injury, a physician, physiotherapist, or chiropractor should evaluate your condition before you begin any exercise program. Also of note is that this exercise list is only the first stage of many and is not by any means an all-inclusive list. It is, however, a great place to start and will work very well for most people.

~ Yoshia

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