Correct Your Blade: Your shoulder will never trouble you

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Healthy shoulder blades are a rarity in our society. The problem is the amount of time we spend sitting in front of computers and steering wheels. The hunched position we tend to assume in these situations leads to a more or less permanent forward rounding of the upper spine. This posture inhibits the ability of the scapula to tilt backward and create space for the internal muscles in the shoulder joint when the arm is lifted overhead. As a result, these internal muscles get pinched, causing damage followed by shoulder pain.

It doesn’t stop there. In the keyboard-typing and steering-wheel-grasping positions our shoulders are rotate inwards and pushed forward for long periods of time. This leads to laxity and weakness in the muscles that rotate outwards and pull back the shoulders. Eventually, these imbalances cause the shoulder blades to float away from the spine toward the shoulder sockets, a phenomenon known as scapular winging. A healthy shoulder blade is sucked up tight against the ribcage. If your shoulder blades are visibly poking out of your upper back when you stand with your arms at your sides, then you have scapular winging.

To improve your shoulder health and performance, it’s necessary to counterbalance these effects with scapular stabilization exercises for the muscles that rotate outwards the arms at the shoulder socket and pull back the shoulder blades.

Types of scapular stabilization exercises:

(1). Scapula-clock exercises- This exercises facilitates upper direction movement, down direction movement, anterior direction and posterior direction movement. Stand close to a wall with your elbow bent. Place your hand on a small ball on the wall just below shoulder height. Roll your shoulder blade back and down and hold it set in this position. Make circles alternating from clockwise to counter clockwise with your hand on the ball while maintaining your shoulder set. Repeat 10 times each way.

(2) Pull down exercises- Using a cable or thera-band secured above you. Pull down with straight arms to the side of body and simultaneously draw your shoulder blades back and down to feel muscular squeeze in the middle part of your back just below the shoulder blades. Repeat 10-20 times.

(3)  Wall push ups: Place hands on wall below shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width. Stand with feet together and away from wall so you are weight bearing through your arms and hands. Do slow push ups on the wall being mindful to keep the shoulders back and down as you press toward wall. As you press away from the wall roll the shoulder blades around the ribcage to arch the upper spine.  Repeat 10 times.

(4). Four point kneeling: Assume four point kneeling position. Take weight forward so your nose is in front of your fingertips. Bend elbows and take shoulders down away from your ears. Keep shoulders back and down and maintain stability on one arm as you lift the other out in front.  Repeat on the other side and do 5-10 repetitions.

(5) Roll out on ball: Assume start position as pictured. Ensure shoulders, hips and knees are aligned and support weight on hands. Slowly roll the ball out in front of you, keeping your body aligned and extend the arms away from the body to allow the elbows and forearms to rest on the ball. Maintain shoulder blades down and back. Repeat 10 times.

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