Universal shoulder/infraspinatus/subscapularis stretch

Universal Shoulder/Infraspinatus/Subscapularis Stretch

If you could do one stretch to help with shoulder pain, what would it be? One stretch that would help to loosen up tight shoulders. Whether they are tight in the front, sides, back of the shoulder, or armpit (axilla), what would it be?

First, we want to look at how our shoulder is designed.

The arm bone is held into the shoulder socket by the wing bone/ scapula/ shoulder blade. The shoulder blade makes up part of the shoulder socket. The arm bone (humerus) attaches to the shoulder socket. Whenever the arm and hand move, the shoulder blade stabilizes them.

Whenever the hand, arm, and shoulder move, four rotator cuff muscles contract and relax to make those fine motor motions. When you are typing on the computer, your rotator cuff muscles are helping to fine-tune the movements in your hands so that the muscles in your hands can move your fingers accurately.

When we hunch over, whether it is a steering wheel, phone, or keyboard, we are contracting a major rotator cuff muscle and irritating it. It is the subscapularis.

The subscapularis is a big rotator cuff muscle that sits between the shoulder blade and the spine. The muscle raises your shoulders to your ears. It pulls the shoulder blade up and back. When you are reaching for something, it gets stretched out.

It’s like sitting in front of a computer, hunching over and leaning forward to get as close to the computer screen as possible to help you focus. This motion will irritate your entire shoulder, into your upper and lower back, and into your neck.

When the subscapularis goes into spasm, it hikes the shoulder blade up to the ears, making it hard to relax. It might feel like your shoulders are permanently shrugged. Some people will say that they feel like there is a button underneath their shoulder blades. Others will say they feel pulling in the front of their shoulder or behind their shoulder blade and into their neck. The subscapularis will be involved no matter what type of shoulder pain they feel.

The best way to avoid shoulder pain in general and to prevent it from coming back is to watch your posture. Be mindful about how you sit and move. When you sit, try to have something behind the small of your back to maintain the curvature of your lower back.

I like rolling a towel into a cylinder, wrapping rubber bands around it to keep it in place, and putting that in the small of my back. You then lean your upper back against the seat, which will keep your back in a good position and in good posture. Bonus if you can have something to rest your head back onto.

When you lean back against the seat, with the lumbar roll behind the small of your back, it pulls your shoulder blades down your back, relaxing the subscapularis. It also maintains the lumbar curve, which helps to keep your lower back, hips, and legs in good posture.

You can also try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. That will bring them down your back and get them in a good position. The best stretch for this area is a yoga stretch.

If your right shoulder is painful, place your right hand behind your back, palm out. Try to reach the bottom of the left shoulder blade. Even if you can’t touch the bottom of the left shoulder blade, that is fine. Get your right hand as high up the left side of your back as possible without bouncing or pushing. Make sure to tuck your right elbow into your side.

Now, lean back against a wall. Touch your heels against the wall. Touch your head against the wall. Look straight ahead.

You might feel that stretch going into your neck, upper back, back of the shoulder, front of the shoulder, and even down into the arm.

This stretch will stretch all of those areas out. If I could recommend one universal shoulder stretch that would affect most shoulder issues, I’d recommend this one. I do it daily to manage my shoulder pain.

I’d recommend the same for you.

I hope that you have a pain-free day.

How to Treat Your Pain, At Home

Are you suffering from muscle, joint, or arthritis pain? Do your shoulders or back feel stiff?

Well, you may have developed what is called “trigger points.” And with the right simple steps, your tensed-up muscles and stiff joints can start whistling a happier tune. 

What are trigger points?

Trigger points are tight knots of muscle in your neck, shoulders, or back that make movement painful and difficult. Wherever there is muscle tissue, there may be a small area of tissue tension that could be a trigger point. 

Think of it as a small marble just under the skin or a tiny charlie horse in the muscle. Now, the pesky points don’t cause too much pain on their own, but when you have enough you may start to feel intense pain or even limited muscle mobility. 

Treating your pain on your own.

I specialize in treating trigger points. Nerves control the muscles, and muscles control the joints. If you have joint pain, chances are that the muscles are involved and irritated in some certain pattern, but it is very hard to figure out that pattern of injury.

The best way to treat joint pain, arthritis pain, muscle spasm, is by treating the muscles. Muscles control everything. If you can reprogram the muscles, and break them out of these neurological patterns of inflammation and spasm, you can get them to heal and function like normal. Well, almost normal. I am a big believer that once you injure yourself, that area is never the same again. The injury gets wired into your system neurologically, and that area is less stable and more likely to get injured in the future.

The best way to treat joint pain and muscle spasm is by applying pressure to the most painful and inflamed spot (trigger point) in the painful muscle; by doing this you cut off the blood supply and the neurological input that perpetuates the muscle spasm. 

The way you find the spot (trigger point), is by locating the irritated muscle, and finding the most swollen and painful area of the muscle, and applying pressure to it. When you apply pressure, you are decreasing inflammation in the muscle and joint, and cutting off the neurological input that is causing the muscle spasm. Thereby reprogramming the muscle. The more you treat the trigger point, the quicker you will break that muscle out of its habit of spasm and inflammation, and allow it to return to its normal function.

Please keep in mind though, that the area that you feel your pain, might not be where your pain is coming from. And where you think your primary problem is, might be secondarily irritated by another problem, that is primary. Kind if like if you have pain in the outside of your knee. It can easily be coming from hip tightness in the glutes, on that same side of the knee pain, pulling on the IT band which is pulling on the outside of the knee, giving you knee pain.

Trying to figure out where your pain is coming from can be difficult, at best, even for a professional. That is why I break up joint pain into areas. It is a complex of muscles that are irritated and causing the joint pain. That’s why you can’t just treat one muscle.

Kind of like if you have left shoulder pain, you can’t just treat the infraspinatus rotator cuff muscle. It will be involved, and possibly the primary spot, but you have to treat the rhomboids and traps and muscles going into the neck, and in the front of the chest as well.

Living the Pain-Free Lifestyle.

On my website, I break your pain up into different areas. Shoulder or neck or upper back pain? The written and video blogs will tell you which muscles to treat, and how to treat them. Hip or low back or knee pain? The written and video blogs will tell you which muscles to treat, and how to treat them. The videos are easy to follow and are meant to be done at home. 

The only equipment that you will need is a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, massage ball, or something else round and hard. A foam roller is also helpful, along with a basketball. I find the tennis ball much more accurate than the foam roller. And when treating trigger points, and muscle pain, accuracy is everything.

If you are thinking of starting on a new exercise system, I would recommend that you take the time and go through your muscles with a tennis ball and a foam roller, and make sure your muscles are looser and up to the challenge of exercising. You will find that you’ll be sore and sensitive in places that you didn’t know had muscles. Loosen yourself up and balance your body first, prior to starting a new exercise routine. You want to continue to treat yourself and your muscles at home, as you exercise, usually afterward. It is a great way to cool down and recover. 

I’d hold each trigger point, or tender spot, for 5-10 seconds, no more. The longer you hold it, the more you chance bruising it. You are trying to reprogram the muscle by breaking up the neurological patterning that is causing the muscle pain, not trying to mash out a muscle knot, or rub out a tender spot. You can go over each muscle 2-3 times. A very painful and active spot, you can go over 4 times. But try not to do it more than that. If you do, you chance bruising the muscle. I’d also not do this more than every other day. If you do it every day, you chance bruising the muscle.

The trigger point will feel like a slippery little ball under the skin. It might be extremely sensitive, or not that sore. It might be stringy, or fibrous. This is a sign that it’s been tight for along time, years.

It is a skill to treating trigger points. Take your time. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. And the better you will feel. The simplest explanation for treating your trigger points at home: find the most irritating spot in the muscle, and press on it.

Have a Pain Free Day