Are you moving your shoulder joints overhead enough?
One of the worst signs of our modern age of joint neglect is that few people today ever lift their arms up over their shoulders. Aside from the few folks who are hay balers or farmers, there’s little need to lift the arms high. The upper arm (humerus) rarely leaves the side of the body, other than to move a few inches forward to type on a keyboard.
Lifting your arms overhead uses the entire shoulder, which consists of three bones and numerous tendons and connective tissues, such as the rotator cuffs. But the shoulder in general has a much greater range of motion than any other joint, because it moves in every direction. It has this ability because it’s a ball and socket joint, with the round head of the humerus bone acting as the ball.
Here’s a simple test you can do to see how much more complex it is to lift the whole arm overhead rather than keeping the upper arm in the vicinity of the rib cage and moving only your lower arm: lift your entire arm high. You’ll feel this movement in your back and chest, the trapezius (in the upper back) and pectorals, and the upper arm bone. Moving only the lower arm provides little muscular effort, and muscles and joints that aren’t fully used become weak; even atrophied.
There are several training exercises that can build and maintain shoulder flexibility and strength. One is to stand up and lift both arms out to the side. Then raise them up as high as possible, still holding them straight out to the side. Another is to lift the humerus to the back, letting the forearms dangle.
A big benefit of training your shoulders by moving your arms skyward is that it gives a flush of blood to these tissues, helping to make them stronger. Another exercise involves your phone. This is done while sitting in the shade, so you’re not looking straight up at the sun while doing this simple move. Hold your phone up over your head, while tilting your head back to read or type a text. You should not feel any pain or even discomfort while doing this exercise. If you do, you’re pushing past your individual range of motion. Pull the movement back a little so you’re not stretching past your own range of motion, which increases the risk of injury.
Now for the most important thing to remember: Never start playing a game in which the arms are lifted overhead without warming up the entire shoulder girdle. No matter how much you want to join in that game of hoops or volleyball, let it go on until you’ve thoroughly warmed up your entire shoulder area. You can do this by slowly making the movements of the game before jumping into the active action itself.
There are numerous ways to get into the practice of moving your arms overhead. Lessen your own risk of injury by using your shoulder joint to make the area strong and flexible.
The upper arm rarely leaves the side of th3e body in most of us, so be sure to warm up that shoulder joint before joining that game of hoops.