The arm is connected to the rest of the body through the shoulder blade and the many muscles that attach to the shoulder blade.
When I was in high school I had a couple of buddies who thought it would be funny to “fake box” in gym class. As one kid would throw a fake punch and make an audible sound, the other would toss his head back pretending like he was hit in the face. Timing was everything for this little gig. It was going well for them until their timing got off and as the punch came flying in Jason’s face went flying forward. SMACK!! Jason was on the ground with blood all over the gym floor, and a broken jaw that he would be sipping smoothies out of for the next month.
Just like Jason getting out of the way of the “fake” punch, your shoulder blades also need to push out of the way of your arm as it lifts above your head.
If you are being “cued” to pull your shoulder blades together (or you as a coach are “cueing” shoulder blades to be pulled together), this can often cause shoulder blades to SMACK into each other causing damage to the underlying muscle tendons.
*Disclaimer these cues are not bad; they just may not be appropriate for overhead movements*
“Hold a softball between your shoulder blades”
“Squeeze my fingers”
“Pull your shoulder blades together”
Quick Anatomy Review
The arm hangs just off to the side of the shoulder blade through the various ligaments and the rotator cuff.
Above the arm or “ball and socket” joint is a roof created by the AC joint comprised on the acromion process (****important****) that is part of the shoulder blade.
Quick Movement Review
For everything 3-5 Degrees of arm elevation there is 1 Degree of shoulder blade rotation
The rotator cuff keeps the arm secured to the shoulder blade as it elevates
The three prime movers of the shoulder blade are serratus anterior, lower trapezius, and upper trapezius
These three muscles pull together to rotate the shoulder blade out, up, and forward to give the arm maximum space to elevate
Although these are just 2-Dimensional images of a complex system, it paints a good picture of the synergistic movement required by both the arm and the shoulder blade.
What happens if we change the natural movement of the shoulder blade when elevating our arm over head?
Here are a few alternative cues that I like to use and have worked well with many of my clients and patients. These cues may not work for everyone, but they also will not cue incorrect positioning that can damage the shoulder.
Separate your shoulder blades away from each other
Wrap your shoulder blades around the front of your body
Lengthen your arms
Drive the arms through the ceiling
All of these cues promote shoulder blade rotation and protraction, and more importantly they get the shoulder blade out of the way of the arm elevating overhead! Try these to cues to help reduce your shoulder pain and improve strength in the overhead positions. Let us know how they work for you!
-Health Through Movement-
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Enhanced Movements Chiropractic
1255 Cimarron Drive #201
Lafayette CO, 80026