Are you mov­ing your shoul­der joints over­head enough?

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - WINA STUR­GEON

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.

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