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.

Continue reading “Stretching Series: Serratus Anterior”

Stretching Series: Longus Colli

Longus Colli

Whenever you have any sort of upper cross syndrome or forward head posture, longus colli is going to be tight. Maybe more importantly though, is how involved this muscle can be with disc injuries (along with scalenes and sternocleidomastoid). By stretching this muscle correctly we can aid in chronic posture issues as well as potentially aid in disc injury symptoms. (to learn more about disc injuries, read Massage Therapy for Disc Injuries)

The keys to stretching this muscle are more in the form that we use than the complexity of motion. Continue reading “Stretching Series: Longus Colli”

Stetching Series: Levator Scapulae

 

Levator Scapulae
Levator Scapulae

Levator Scapulae is one of those muscles that can be over worked and become hypertonic when posture or stress is an issue. Its function is to elevate the scapula which (along with trapezius) can become over active and create soreness and pain in the cervicothoracic junction. Obvious a great one to stretch for maintenance of neck and shoulder discomfort.

The key to stretching this muscle is involving the scapula’s ability to rotate  with shoulder movement. Continue reading “Stetching Series: Levator Scapulae”

Stretching Series: Sternocleidomastoid

Sternocleidomastoid

This muscle is one of those which is probably either on your top 5 treatment list or on your “I hate this muscle” treatment list. Either way, it is very important clinically to know how to stretch this muscle. It is involved in many conditions including upper cross syndrome, forward head posture, disc injuries, and, last but not least, headaches and migraines. Also, because of its unique anatomy, it has the capability limiting multiple motions of the neck which can limit the general mobility of the cervical spine.   If we can learn to stretch this muscle we can help fight all of these conditions. Continue reading “Stretching Series: Sternocleidomastoid”

Lumbar Decompression Exercise

Figure 1

Low back pain is certainly rampant these days. I myself have had my fair share of low back pain over the years stemming from an injury in my teens. Certainly, my education in massage therapy has helped me become aware of causes of low back pain and in doing so helped me develop my own personal self-care routine.  This being said,  my experience from both viewpoints, that of a practitioner as well as a patient, gives me a well-rounded view on the subject. Although I would love to have never had low back pain, it certainly has given me empathy for clients who come see me who have acute or chronic low back conditions. I really do feel for them as I know exactly how they are feeling as they lie on my table in discomfort.

While there are numerous causes of back pain and treatment does need to be catered to individual cases, there is one technique which I feel is applicable to many forms of back pain. The technique is spinal decompression.  Now I’m sure you have heard of spinal decompression in its traditional sense. It gets a lot of popularity, especially in late-night infomercials selling devices which flip your body upside down and suspend you like you are on a playground…..for only 5 payments of 19.99 plus shipping and handling….never mind. I have nothing against these devices but in my opinion, exercises which are meant to help with spinal decompression should be done functionally. While hanging upside down to decompress the spine does work, a better option would be to learn how to do this in a more natural and active way which also allows for conditioning of supportive muscles at the same time. Also not having to buy a large piece of equipment is not practical for your patients. They will appreciate this exercise as it is quite simple and free.

Before I demonstrate the exercise, I would like to quickly talk about the spine to make sure we know what we are dealing with. Continue reading “Lumbar Decompression Exercise”

Stretching Series: Scalenes

Scalene Muscles

The Scalenes are an incredibly important for a multitude of reasons. They are involved in many different issues involving the cervical spine including upper cross syndrome, improper breathing, cervical disc injuries, and nerve entrapments which affect the arms and hands. Obviously, they are important to know how to stretch correctly.

It is important to know two key facts for these muscles. The first is knowing that they insert into the ribs so we can use the movement of the ribs to help increase the stretch. The second is that there are three of these muscles which all track in different angles. So, in order to stretch all of them, we will need to use slight variations throughout our stretch focus on these angles. Continue reading “Stretching Series: Scalenes”