When you consider the position and operational structure of your joints, you’ll notice that stability and mobility are two key aspects that work with and against each other at the same time. For instance, highly mobile joints, such as the ankles, are closely connected to articulations that are more stability-oriented, such as the knees.
The shoulders combine both of these joint components, with the shoulder blades (scapulae) acting as points of stability while the other joints of the shoulder excel in articulation and mobility. When these two aspects are out of sync, shoulder pain can occur.
Shoulder stability and strength can both be compromised by various issues, such as poor posture and lack of use. That’s where this weekend’s challenge comes in.
The Shoulder Pain Averter And Posture Improver enhances your shoulders’ full range of motion and strengthens the scapulae, to help prevent pain and achieve better posture.
Let’s get started!
The shoulder joint is quite complex. It’s a marvel of strength and motion, with no fewer than ten points of articulation. The various muscles, tendons, and joints involved all work together to perform actions as simple as reaching over your head. Here are some of the highlights of the marvelous workings of the shoulder along with an illustration :
- The scapulae (shoulder blades) are like the foundation of the shoulder joints. They are the point of shoulder strength, and the proper function of the shoulder relies heavily on their strength. According to research,
“Scapular strengthening should be a part of all rehabilitation programs relating to the shoulder complex.”1
Poor scapular function and shoulder pain can result from a variety of factors, such as lack of exercise and conditions like forward head posture or kyphosis. Research suggests that rounded shoulders and forward head posture (FHP) are particular culprits in causing shoulder pain, as is repetitive overhead motion and sustained overhead weight bearing.2
Targeted exercises help overcome these postural problems and keep the scapulae in the right position for optimal joint function. If they’re not exercised, the muscles surrounding the scapulae become weak and/or tight, and the shoulder can feel stiff and painful.
In addition, lack of use (often due to pain, injury, poor circulation, or other issues) can cause the tissues and tendons to stiffen and scar tissue to form, resulting in “frozen shoulder.” This condition develops slowly, and ultimately restricts movement and range of motion due to pain and difficulty of movement.
To strengthen the scapulae and recover full range of motion, restoring upward rotation is crucial. This is the motion of lifting anything up overhead, whether it’s putting something away on a high kitchen shelf or lifting a 25-pound toddler. This motion requires the acromion – the bony prominence on the shoulder blade – to slide smoothly past the rotator cuff.
If the shoulder is misaligned or otherwise dysfunctional, the rotator cuff tendons can become inflamed as they move past the acromion, resulting in a painful condition called impingement syndrome (also known as swimmer’s shoulder or thrower’s shoulder). The syndrome can also cause weakness and stiffness of the joint.
- The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is less familiar than the ball-and-socket arrangement at the top of the humerus bone (we’ll look at that in a moment), but it’s no less important to the integrity and mobility of the shoulder. The AC joint is between the scapula and the clavicle, and allows you to raise your arm up over your head. It’s a gliding synovial joint, which means it acts as a pivot or strut to increase the rotation of your arm.
The AC joint is the one that is injured in a “separated shoulder,” which is different from a dislocated shoulder. The latter involves the joint we’re going to look at next.
- The glenohumeral joint consists of the head of the humerus, which forms the ball, and the glenoid cavity (socket) on the scapula. In shoulder dislocation, the head of the humerus is forced out of the glenoid cavity, usually due to forceful impact, causing extreme pain and loss of mobility.
The relatively loose capsule of the glenohumeral joint is responsible for the shoulder’s remarkable range of motion, but it also contributes to the tendency to dislocate. In fact, the shoulder is considered the most mobile of all the joints in the body; but this mobility can become the shoulder’s weakness if it’s not strengthened through exercise.
These are the three main points of the shoulder, stabilized by many tendons and muscles that need to be strengthened, stretched, and used, as in today’s exercise.
- Stand beside a wall. It does not matter if the wall is to your right or left, but for the sake of clarity, we’ll start with the right side.
- Stand about 12 inches away from the wall to start; the farther from the wall you are, the easier the move, so if this is too difficult, step out a bit more and try again.
- Keeping your elbow straight, raise your right arm out in front of you with your palm facing to the left. You’re not touching the wall at this point.
- Continue raising your arm until it is pointing straight up. Do not bend your back; keep your spine straight and still.
- Begin bringing your arm back, without touching the wall, slowly rotating your arm so that your palm is lightly against the wall. Continue bringing your arm down until your hand is approximately at hip level.
- Pause, and then bring your arm back along the same arc you just traced along the wall. Rotate your hand back again so your palm is facing left when you bring your arm back so it’s straight out in front of you again.
- Repeat this motion eight to 10 times, or as many times as you comfortably can, and then switch sides and repeat with the other arm.
To adjust the difficulty level, simply move closer to the wall for a greater challenge, or step farther away to make it easier. And remember, keep your back as straight as possible without being stiff; don’t arch your back in either direction or bend to the side. If this or any other motion in this exercise causes shoulder pain or any discomfort, don’t continue and check with your health practitioner.
If you’d like to follow up with another shoulder exercise, try The Shoulder Positioner.
Mobility + Stability = Healthy Joints
Both mobility and stability are important for joint health, bone strength, and relief from pain. Joints need to be functional in order to build bone with exercises that strengthen your muscles, per Wolff’s Law.
Savers are familiar with its proven premise, which states that bone responds to stimulation and stress by producing more bone, thus increasing density and strength. Obviously, a joint needs to be functional for muscle stress to be applied.
The Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is based on this principle, and many of the 50+ “Densercises” focus on improving motion of articulated joints, including the ankles and shoulders. The exercises in Densercise™ combine strength and stability with mobility and range of motion, a vital balance for building bone through exercise.
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I hope you enjoy this weekend’s challenge and, as always, feel free to leave a comment below.
Have a great weekend!
1 Paine, Russ, PT and Voight, Michael L., PT, DHSc, OCS, SCS, ATC, FAPTA. “The Role Of The Scapula.” IJSPT. 8. 5. (2013): 617-629. Web. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3811730/
2 Thigpen, Charles A., et al. “Head and shoulder posture affect scapular mechanics and muscle activity in overhead tasks.” Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology. (2010). PDF. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/465f/2a362462ba8d396d4de3b56254937994f686.pdf