Don't confuse the familiar with the healthy.
~ Judith H. Lasater
Alignment really is the key to unlocking tension patterns in the body. As most humans are aware, we carry a lot of tension in our neck and shoulders.
What I would like to discuss today is that while stretching tight muscles is great, you might not be reaching certain muscle groups effectively due to your posture.
Misalignment patterns can have a cascading effect that may result in not only tight muscles but compression of the vertebral discs in your spine.
Let's look at the biomechanist, Katy Bowman, and her two photos below.
My hope is that you can tell the difference between the left picture and the right. When the arms are raised either straight or in this bent elbow position, it becomes very obvious that the anterior ribs are thrusting forwards. While this movement is very normal, it isn't healthy if we are in a rib thrusting position for most of the day.
This rib thrusting over time can be problematic due to the shearing force that is applied to the anterior spinal discs (which are fluid filled sacs between the bones of the spine).
If you default to this postural position, this constant compression can become chronic as the muscles adapt to your postural habits and the discs may burst or a nerve may start to pinch. Pain doesn't always result immediately but over time issues will become more dramatic and less likely to change with just proper alignment cues.
The reality is that if it took you decades of bad posture to get into this predicament, it will take some time to get you back into a healthier position. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but I do believe that change will come with persistence over time. The first step is knowing what a neutral, healthy spine looks like.
Rib thrusting not only affects the bones but the soft tissues as well. Muscles, organs, nerves, arteries, and veins; it's all connected. Chronic misalignment in one area isn't isolated but systemic.
For the first few years, I was just taking the ribs back and lengthening the spine from the heels all the way to the crown of the head. That works as a first step in the process of observation and integration.
Now I not only think about the anterior, front body but have a new focus. Taking the posterior ribcage (approximately where the kidneys are located) back and up, again lengthening the spine from heels to crown of the head.
In the video above you will be introduced to an excellent exercise to discover how tight your shoulders REALLY are and to then how to work on isolating the shoulder movement while keeping great alignment.
Just remember your tissues need time to repair. Short intervals several times a day will help with the repair and strengthening process.
I hope this essay helps move you in the direction towards better range-of-motion in your shoulders. I will be spending the next several months introducing concepts relating to the shoulders and building on those ideas with each essay. My want is that you will leave with a better understanding over time. I do well with repetition, approaching the topic from a variety of angles to uncover little gems along the way.
Have fun and I will be back soon with more shoulder health tips.