Yesterday I posted this little diddie on our Facebook page:
Raise your left arm into the air. Great. Now check and see if the shoulder joint also went into the air. Did it? Now, put the arm and the shoulder back down and raising your arm without taking your shoulder with it. How? By thinking "pull the left shoulder blade down as I lift my arm." Why? Because arm movement should happen mostly at the shoulder joint and not so much between the shoulder and the neck. For better long-term shoulder health (and less neck tension) maintain those finer motor skills (look Mom, I can move JUST my arm), which keep the smaller muscles in the shoulder joint more mobile and well-circulating and reduces the pull on the vertebrae of the neck. How'd you do? Try the right side too!
It actually had more typos than this version here because I usually am on Facebook while cleaning the kitchen, minding a toddler, and reading research articles. For the blog though I usually edit. Or I have my husband edit. And for that, you are grateful. Trust me.
I wanted to expand on this idea a little more though -- this notion that our shoulders have become so stiff, we move more between the shoulder and the neck than we actually notice or realize. The glenohumeral joint (a.k.a. the shoulder) is where the upper arm bone (the humerus) articulates on a small section of the scapula (the shoulder blade) called the glenoid fossa. Our modern living habits (read: computering, driving, not walking with reflexive arm-swing and stress, stress, stress!) have left us with shoulder joints that don’t actually move all that well anymore. To compensate, we automatically distort our rib cages and shoulder blades to give us the illusion of shoulder opening, which is fine, until you find yourself with a thoracic outlet, cervical (neck) vertebrae, or shoulder impingement issue. Then letting that shoulder tension accumulate isn't so cool.
Today’s mantra: Do I (really) need my traps for that?
I know everyone wants “the corrective exercise” they can do to make their shoulders all better, but instead I challenge you to use your shoulder joint (instead of your spine and scapula) throughout the day. If you apply the little lesson on shoulder stabilization above to the many zillions of things you do throughout the day, you’ll find your shoulders get better much more rapidly than just doing one or two sets of a particular exercise a day. Here are some suggestions on where to look for (and eliminate) that shoulder hike created by the trapezius muscle, which runs between the spine and the shoulder blade.
Drinking (or pouring) coffee, tea, whatever. Want traps with that?
Holding your kid. Want traps with that?
Cooking (or washing up afterward). Do I really need my traps for that?
Downward Dog. Did I want traps with that?
Or can I it try again sans traps? (Note to self: More work on left shoulder-elbow-hand needed!)
Typing on the computer. Talking on the phone. Carrying a purse or sack. Want traps with that?
The tension in our shoulders has slowly accumulated without us really realizing it, which then leads to further subconscious movement patterns that compensate. If the way you execute your daily task list is part of why your shoulders aren't getting better, then becoming aware of this fact is an essential step in restoring the body.
Ideally we need to rid our body of the tension by letting it go, instead of forcing it out or hiding it, but that takes an awareness of how you are moving in the first place. You can use this post as a catalyst to becoming more aware of what's really going on in your neck and shoulders and choose a different way to move. You can also take this class (click).
What other scenarios have you found leaving you asking “Do I really want traps with that?”