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Improve Shoulder Stability: Shoulder Blades

Ever since the start of the pandemic, I have been evaluating a high number of patients with acute onset of shoulder pain. Some attribute it to posture/workstation changes, and others say it may be from a transition to independent workout routines due to the closing of gyms/personal training. Regardless of the mechanism, very often patients with shoulder pain have poor scapular control and are unable to associate upper arm movements with proper scapular motion. In PT, we refer to this as scapulohumeral rhythm.

So why is it so difficult to move shoulder blades properly?

Sometimes its muscle stiffness There are 17 total muscles that attach to your shoulder blades, all affecting different planes of motion. If there is a restriction in one or more, your ability to move your shoulder blade through the full range is going to be limited. Other times its lack of awareness of these motions, resulting in poor movement patterns during training.

There are many ways to move your shoulder blades, but generally, we work in three planes with six different motions:

  1. Elevation (toward ears)

  2. Depression (away from ears)

  3. Protraction (away from spine/away from each other)

  4. Retraction (toward spine/toward each other)

  5. Upward rotation (counter-clockwise)

  6. Downward rotation (clockwise)

In the video above, there are three ways to move them in all directions in one exercise. Mastering these motions takes practice but can be an effective warm-up tool to get those muscles firing and ultimately achieve greater shoulder stability.

Daniel FoleyDaniel Foley

Daniel Foley

Dan enjoys working with a wide variety of orthopedic conditions, as well as sports-related injuries, using a full body approach that emphasizes manual therapy and functional-based exercises.

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