The shoulder, working as a ball and socket, is most flexible joint in the human body. It is comprised of two separate joints, the union between the glenoid fossa, (the socket at the end of the scapula or shoulder blade, and the ball at the end top of the humerus, or upper arm bone. The second articulation at the shoulder involves the acromioclavicular joint that connects your scapula to your collar bone. While it is held together by various ligaments, the muscles of the shoulder, namely the rotator cuff, generate the force that allows it to move in multiple directions. The flexibility of the shoulder is thought to be an evolutional advancement as it permits the upper arm to place the hand, and more importantly, the opposing thumbs, in uncountable positions, allowing humans to function at a higher level than other mammals. The ability to paint, draw, play musical instruments, cook, clean, be creative, build, cultivate food, etc. are all directly related to the beautiful and complex cooperative effort between the shoulder, arm and hand.
When the shoulder is compromised by loss of motion or strength, so too is the function of the arm and hand. It becomes difficult to dress, groom, work, play sports, etc. Therefore, it is imperative that we maintain shoulder health through range of motion and strength exercises. However, it is equally important that we exercise in a manner that does not compromise the integrity of shoulder motion or strength. With this in mind, this series of 3 columns will present exercises to maintain or regain shoulder range of motion without compromising the joint and muscles.
Shoulder Range of Motion Exercises
Always perform slowly and without pain. Perform 5 to 10 repetitions and repeat on the opposite side.
Pendulums – PHOTO 1: Stand facing a table or counter top. Lean over and allow your arm to hang down like a pendulum. Turn your thumb up pointing to 12:00. Slowly swing your arm clockwise in 6 to 12 inch circles. Perform 5 times and repeat counter-clockwise.
Table Slides – PHOTO 2: Stand facing a table or counter top. Lean over and allow your arm to rest on the table. Turn your thumb up pointing to 12:00. Slowly slide your arm forward to stretch the shoulder. H4:old 5 seconds. Perform 5 times.
Wall Slides – PHOTO 3: Stand in a door way and face the wall of the door jam. Turn your thumb up pointing to 12:00. Slowly slide your hand/arm up the wall to stretch the shoulder. Hold 5 seconds. Perform 5 times.
Touch Ear/Back of Head – PHOTO 4: Stand or sit and turn your arm out so your right hand can touch your right ear. If this is comfortable, try going further behind your head. Hold 5 seconds. Perform 5 times.
Touch Side Pocket/Small of Back – PHOTO 5: Stand or sit and turn your arm in so your right hand can touch your right pocket. If this is comfortable, try going further behind the small of your back or to the back pocket. Hold 5 seconds. Perform 5 times.
Pinch Shoulder Blades Together – PHOTO 6: Stand or sit and pinch your shoulder blades together as if rowing a boat. Hold 5 seconds. Perform 5 times.
Contributions: Gary Mattingly, PT, PhD, Professor Emeritus, University of Scranton, Physical Therapy Department.
Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune. Next week will be “Part 3 - shoulder exercises”
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.