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Rotator Cuffs and Spine Motion

The Rotator Cuff is often "blamed" for your shoulder hurting.

Is this always the case?

In my mind, no.

Simply put, in my experience, most people have horrible scapula control.

Several years ago I proposed that the Scapula would become an in vogue body part, we were at the time (if I remember right) in the "Glute era" having just exited the "Core era"

Pretty much every "fix" once upon a time was something to do with strengthening the core. Then it was weak glutes

Now we're hearing more people talk about the scapula.

Which is great. I love the scap.

Which brings me to this gorgeous animation:

Look at how the arm, scapula, clavicle and spine all move in a lovely rhythm. A stunning orchestra.

The inside of the scapula is curved, it's kind of a shallow dish. This is because it slides over the curved rib cage.

Now, look at this:

For a scapula to move well, it needs a nice surface to move over. For the ribs to be just so, our spine must be capable of moving well. And because our backbone is connected to our hip bone, our hip bone is connected to our leg bone.....

You guessed it, you sore shoulder might have nothing or everything to do with the shoulder at all!

How does this information help you?

Hopefully it frees you from the endless diet of external rotation exercises, the million different ways to do band pull aparts and those horrible sleeper stretches.

These exercises aren't necessarily bad they're just exercises.

And a repetition exercise with a band, dumbell or similar is about muscle strength, just as a squat or a bicep curl is.

But unless we address the very thing that the scapula slides over, how can we really control our scapula.

So here's an exercise we use a lot to aid people "remember" how the spine likes to move, we call it "Wall Cogs"

And this one adds in the arm and scapula to that motion, we call this "Box Cogs"

The goal of these exercises is to explore the natural movement and interaction of the joints. It's not about "How far" you move but "how well" you move. In the Wall Cog we're using the head movement to move the neck, the neck may then move the thoracic upon which the shoulder rest, this may then move the lumbar and pelvis. Of course, it may not, but where the motion stops tells you where you need to place your attention. The Box Cog uses the arm to drive the scapula to drive the rib cage and start the spine moving. If that's no good, try initiating the movement from the tailbone up the spine, or the head down the spine. As one joint moves, it knocks into the next one and the next one like a domino rally.

The smoother each "domino" interacts with the next one, then the better chance your muscles have of being able to stretch and contract with maximal efficiency and appropriate force.

Don't mistake this as a post about perfect static posture, I don't believe such a thing exists. A posture is merely a snapshot in time, a static position between movements. It's the inability to move well, in an integrated, orchestrated manner that often brings about issues. This inability could come from an overuse of particular patterns, or an injury or yes, weakness. But until we test movement, it's difficult to tell where the origin of a problem and therefore the solution to that problem may lie.


Dave Hedges

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