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Episode 222: Improving Shoulder Function

Video Highlights

- The spine's influence on shoulder function.
- The brain loves a stable neck.
- Assess your own results.

Today we’re going to talk about using your neck to improve your shoulder.

One thing that you have to consider if you have shoulder issues is what role your spine is playing in the problem. Very often what we’ll find if you have shoulder issues, an abduction or internal rotation or any given shoulder movement, very often if we stabilize the cervical spine or mobilize it, depending on what’s going on, very often that will help clear up shoulder pain.

What we’re going to talk about really quickly today is how to assess yourself to decide whether or not you need to be working on your neck in order to improve your shoulder. For instance, lets say I have pain in flexion. If I were to take a small weight, lets say I’m trying to rehab my shoulder and I test myself in deflection and I get an idea of how uncomfortable my shoulder is. Maybe I have pain at this point, maybe I have pain at this point, maybe I have pain here.

Doesn’t really matter. All that you have to do is have a baseline.

Once you know what your movement baseline is, the next thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to play with some different head and neck stabilization drills.

When we think about the neck, very, very mobile area of the body but it has some basic movements that we’re going to test. We have flexion, so, if I look down at the floor. Extension, if I look up at the ceiling. I have right and left lateral flexion or lateral bending, then I have right and left rotation.

Very, very simple. We have six motions, forward and back, side to side and rotation. What we want to do now is we want to create an isometric movement of the head and neck into each of these directions while we retest the shoulder. For instance, like I said, if I have pain in this motion at this range, the first thing I would test is flexion.

Get nice and tall, tuck my chin, place my hand here and press into it. What I’m trying to do is avoid any actual head to neck movement. I just want to stabilize my neck in deflection, hold that as I retest the flexion movement.

If it’s better, write that down.

I’m then going to do the same thing testing into a lateral bend.

So, nice and tall, now I’m bending to my right. Hold that as I test. Opposite side, test.

It’s a very, very simple idea that I’m going to create an isometric tension in each of these different motions.

Depending on what tests well for you, what you then want to consider is adding in these neck stabilization movements to any of your ongoing shoulder rehab.

Woman having her neck worked on by another lady.

The easiest way to do that, generally, is to use a band. The band will have some give to it. If the band is uncomfortable you can always use a rope or something else.

But, for instance, if I responded really well to this anterior motion, this flexion motion of my neck while I’m moving my shoulder I could then just attach my band like one of those cool seventies headbands. Now I have the band of resistance that I can press into and hold as I’m doing my other rehab work.

Again, depending on what direction of stabilization improved your shoulder, you just use a band. You may have to adjust your body side to side to get appropriate tension but once you have those two things together very often what we find is, stabilizing the neck will decrease the shoulder pain tremendously and help you get a lot more volume in in your basic rehab.

This isn’t just a rehab drill. Just got back from Denmark teaching a lot of speed mechanics for athletes. One of the things we talk a lot about is how critical it is for your brain to have a stable neck, a stable spine while everything else is in motion. You can also try this type of drill even if you’re not having pain but if you just have restrictions and range of motion, or if you’re just trying to get stronger.

Very often we tell people if you just focus on this, focus on good spinal stability, done the right way in the right direction, everything else improves.

For a quick recap, remember, we want to test six different ranges of motion: flexion, extension, right lateral bending, left lateral bending, right rotation and left rotation.

When we do this we’re going to pretest the shoulder. Whatever the motion is that’s uncomfortable, let’s say I get to here, I get restriction, I get some pain. Maybe right lateral bending allows me to go to this range now without pain. Perfect. That’s what we want you to use this for.

We’re not asking you to do this and then continually work through that pain range, we’re just trying to increase the movement capacity that you have by stabilizing the neck.

If you have two different movements that help you, let’s say flexion with right rotation, you can either do two sets. One of each, or you can actually try to do both at the same time where you would place the band on a diagonal for you’re now resisting, moving into this forward direction and then also that lateral bend so the band would be over here. Then you can hold that as you’re going through the movement.

Those are some different options.

That’s a quick recap.

Give this a shot. If you have any questions about it let me know.

Otherwise, good luck.

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