Serratus Anterior and Forward Shoulder Posture

Forward Shoulder Posture – Copyright massageofferings.com

Forward Shoulder Posture is very common these days.  You see it everywhere; especially those people who work at computers for a living. It has become very prevalent in younger people too as more and more time is spent hunched over smartphones. I don’t want to sound like an old person here yelling at those whippersnappers to “sit up straight and pull up your pants” but I can’t help it sometimes. The truth is, while many people have poor posture for a multitude of reasons, smartphone usage truly is a big culprit in an increased amount of people walking around (and sitting) with their chin at the same level as their chest and their shoulders almost touching in the front (okay a minor exaggeration). Continue reading “Serratus Anterior and Forward Shoulder Posture”

Stretching Series: Serratus Anterior

Serratus Anterior Photo Credit – Anatomography
Stretching the Serratus Anterior effectively can be a difficult task, especially if a client has limited mobility or pain in the shoulder. Many stretching tutorials will have the patient raise the arm over the head and lean laterally in order to lengthen the muscle. While this does partially stretch the muscle, it can be difficult for some to extend the arm over the head. Also, this motion does not stretch serratus anterior optimally. If we look at the action of the muscle, aka scapular protraction, a part of the movement we need to incorporate to gain the most lengthening is scapular retraction; not flexion of the shoulder. By doing retraction, we will greatly intensify the stretch and create much more mobility. 

The key when stretching the Serratus Anterior effectively is to use multiple movements to achieve optimal lengthening. First, we will use medial scapular translation in order to retract the scapula and move the insertion of the muscle. Then we will use the movement of the rib cage to move the origin of the muscle, optimizing the lengthening.

The Stretch

  • Start with our body standing at a slight angle away from a wall with the side being stretched nearest the wall. 
  • Place your same-sided foot in front of you and opposite foot behind for a strong stance. Place your palm as an anchor on the posterior of the ilium creating a wing shape with your arm.

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Breathing, It’s Not Just Air

Diaphragm
Diaphragm

 

Most of us take something as common as breathing for granted. It’s a bodily function which occurs thousands of times per day. On average, an adult breaths between 17,000 and 23,000 times per day. That is a lot of activity that we are unaware of. Rarely do we think about it, unless we are exercising and feel like passing out after running a mile (my current pitiful fitness level). All of the sudden, this minor part of our everyday life becomes a very important thing and we have a hard time NOT focusing on it…I hate running. Continue reading “Breathing, It’s Not Just Air”

Shoulder Impingement

Supraspinatus

Some of you may have experienced weeks where you seem to see the same conditions over and over again. Its as if you should title your work  “hip fixing week” or “headache day”.  For me, more often than not, it is “pain in my shoulder…fix me” week. Shoulder joints are one of the most treated areas in my practice, which has provided me with a pretty good idea as to some of the common denominators for why they go funky. Obviously, every client is unique and you cannot generalize because each injury or pain condition is its own process. However,  recognizing some of the typical traits of shoulder dysfunction can help you assess some areas which can be treated to help restore shoulder function. And by doing this, we can treat a good number of shoulder pain cases.

The condition which is one of the most frequent that I see, and which I want to cover is shoulder impingement syndrome.  Although I said that you should not generalize for proper assessment sake, many cases of shoulder pain are due to impingement syndrome. Yes, there are plenty of other conditions which occur in the shoulder, but for the sake of this post, I want to focus on impingement as it is a condition which pops up a lot, and is highly applicable to massage therapy. Continue reading “Shoulder Impingement”

Stretching Series: Pectoralis Minor

Figure 1                                                                                Pectoralis Minor- Photo Credit Anatomography

 

Figure 2
Pectoralis Minor is probably one the hardest muscles in the body to stretch. It is commonly done in an exact manner as pectoralis major which, in my opinion, can be improved upon. Because of its attachments, it does not have the ability to move through a large range of motion which, of course, limits how we can move it to stretch it. The main issue with singling out pectoralis minor is that pectoralis major usually comes to tension before we can stretch minor, or shoulder mobility does not allow for enough movement. So, in order to reach pectoralis minor, we will need to take these factors out of the equation. Instead of focusing on glenohumeral movement, we are going to focus more on scapular motion (retraction) to gain the lengthening we require.
Now some of you may ask why we are not going to incorporate more elevation of the scapula since the pectoralis minor depresses the shoulder. I answer this by saying that elevation, at least the way we need it, is almost impossible to accomplish when stretching on your own (someone assisting you is a different story). Also, we can accomplish more lengthening and single out pectoralis minor much more effectively with shoulder retraction in this circumstance. If you look back and look at Figure 1, I want you to imagine a simple pulley system on top of the shoulder. Pectoralis minor is a rope on the front side of the pulley and the scapula is the back side of the system. By depressing the scapula while at the same time retracting it, we are, in essence, “hoisting” the insertion of pectoralis minor up and drawing it away from its origin in the ribs.

Although Pectoralis Minor does not have an attachment on the humerus (unlike Pectoralis Major), we will use it to affect how we want the scapula to move.  We will also use the ribs where the Pectoralis Minor originates to help lengthen the muscle from the other direction.

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Stretching Series: Pectoralis Major

Pectoralis Major
This muscle is very popular to stretch and for good reason. It is a main contributor to upper cross syndrome and anterior shoulder posture. It can also be a major player in shoulder impingement. Obviously, a good one to know how to stretch! The key with the muscle is making sure we are stretching ALL the different fiber directions due to the broad attachments into the ribs. we can easily miss fully lengthening this muscle simply by not stretching at the right angle.  

If discomfort is felt in the shoulder joint while stretching, or if instability is a concern, practice stabilizing the scapula while stretching by activating your lower trapezius and rhomboid. This should help with discomfort as well as allow for correct stretching form. 

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