5 Things You Need to Know About Your Shoulders
The shoulders are very complex joints that normally work efficiently to support your neck and head and a full range of arm movement. Beyond the usual focus on muscles and bone, there is much to consider when you have a shoulder problem that needs to get better. During 25 years of practice, I have successfully treated all manner of shoulder symptoms. When traditional muscle and joint therapy fails, you might want to consider the following facts.
It takes four joints to move your arm
The bones of your shoulder include the humerus, clavicle, scapula and sternum. These four structures form four joints that allow rotation and lift of the arm and serve as attachments for your muscles. Each joint contributes individual movement as all four joints combine to achieve full range of motion. The shoulder girdle is an example of tensional integrity. The strength and flexibility of the arm and shoulder depend on balance and cooperation among the four joints. Each single joint depends on the integrity and support of the others. All four joints serve as your foundation for muscular movement and must be in balance for you to move efficiently.
The special nature of the clavicles
Your clavicles (collarbones) are the first bones to start forming in the embryo. They begin to grow in front of your heart. Clavicles are made of a spongy type of bone, designed to absorb force like a sponge. When force enters your shoulder, the clavicle compresses. If the force is too great, your clavicle will break in two to dissipate the injurious force before it can go deeper. In this way your clavicle is said to “guard” your heart.
Structurally, your clavicle struts the scapula (shoulder blade) away from your rib cage. This allows your scapula to glide freely over your ribs. When absorbed force compresses your clavicle it cannot “hold” the scapula in its proper position. All other shoulder joints and muscles will have to compensate creating difficulty in movement.
Your shoulders are connected to your organs
Connective tissue fascia wraps around organs forming pockets. This connective tissue moves from your abdomen, up through your chest, under your clavicles and into the head and neck. Through this fascial connection, stress in the shoulders can influence the organs and stress in organs can contribute stress to your shoulders. Dr. Barral, DO found common fascial strain patterns running under the right clavicle to the liver and left clavicle to left kidney.
You are a cross crawler
You are designed as a contralateral being. As an infant you learned to crawl in a specific way that trained your nervous system and established coordination. When your right arm goes forward, your left leg does also. When your left arm goes forward, your right leg will do the same. This complex pattern is stored in your nervous system and manages posture, coordination, movements, like walking, and balance. This strength pattern provides stability from shoulders to opposite hips. Because of this pattern, we often need to evaluate overstress in a hip as having a negative influence on your opposite shoulder.
Protect and be safe and any cost
Arguably, the safest you have ever been is in a fully protected embryonic state. Your normal position for that safe development is the “fetal” position or flexion. During times of extreme stress or vulnerability, due to injury, surgery or other trauma, your body may automatically revert back to that safe fetal position called flexion. In a flexion posture, your shoulders roll forward, the chest collapses inward to protect heart and lungs, the shoulders may rise up to protect the neck and head as you compress inward toward your center. Over time flexion posture may cause pain, distort posture and decrease range of motion in the shoulders.
Let’s look at the whole picture
I often see people with muscle pain and limited movement in their shoulders. It helps to work with muscles but muscles alone are not often the entire issue. We need to understand and consider original patterns for health, relationships of the shoulders to other structures such as organs, cross crawling patterns for proper nervous system function and embryological patterns for safety.