1.) Constantly pulling your shoulders back (shoulder blades together) will make it worse. I know that this position is taught as “good posture”, but it is not good alignment. (Read about the difference between posture and alignment.) The rhomboids are muscles on your upper back that connect the spine and the scapula (shoulder blades). When you have the habit of retracting your scapula (retracting=pulling the shoulders back like you are squeezing something between the shoulder blades) these muscles get tight and weak. When you retract your scapula it LOOKS GOOD, but it is only masking your shoulder tension, NOT FIXING IT. Trying to keep this “good posture” all the time is causing these muscles to become tighter and weaker, sabotaging your long term shoulder and spinal health.
2.) The tension in your hands is directly related to the tension in your shoulders. Before I started studying Restorative Exercise™, it never occurred to me to stretch my hands. I didn’t even realize there was tension in my hands. If you can relate to this, try these tests.
Test #1: Start on your hands and knees. (If you can’t get on your hands and knees, try bending over and placing your hands on a coffee table.) Place your hands on the floor so that the middle finger points straight ahead and the thumb and pointer finger make an “L” (a 90° angle). Then roll the elbows in towards eachother so that the elbow points back towards your thighs and the elbow “pit” faces the same direction as your middle finger. Keep a slight bend in the elbow to keep from hyper extending. In the photos below, there is a red dot on my elbow pit to help you see it.
Did your hands cup up away from the floor? Is it impossible to get the hand position and arm position at the same time? This shows you how the the shoulder, arm and hand tension is all related. We SHOULD be able to keep both the hands and the shoulders aligned at the same time, not one or the other.
Test #2: Reach your arm behind your back without letting your scapula “wing” (boney edges stick out). Keep the flat and wide across your back. If you can, reach your arm up towards your neck without winging the scapula.
Then flip your palm over so that the palm touches your back. You should be able to do this without the scapula winging. If you can’t, this shows you (again) how your shoulder and hand tension are related.
3.) Just because you don’t FEEL a stretch, doesn’t mean you don’t have tension. It’s pretty common to have one or more hyper mobile joints. When a joint is hyper mobile the ligaments are too lax, making it easy to move a joint without the muscular tension getting in the way. In this case, you may be able to move through a normal (or often excessive) range of motion without ever feeling a stretch. When you try to stretch, you don’t feel anything, so you assume your muscles aren’t tight. The tension is still there creating pain, tendonitis, numbness, tingling, etc only you don’t realize it because you can’t feel it. It is MUCH harder for someone with hyper lax ligaments in a certain area to access the muscular tension. It’s very complex to learn to stabilize your hyper mobile parts. If you suspect this is an issue for you, see suggestions 3 & 4 below.
What You Can Do About It:
1.) Stop pulling your shoulders back/together all the time. Let them relax wide.
2.) Practice Test #2. It’s a test, but it will also help mobilize the shoulder.
3.) Join me at Blooma Nashville for Upper Boday class. Come stretch and strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, arms, chest, neck & upper back to create shoulders that are both strong AND mobile. This class will restore upper body alignment, relieve tension & pain, improve flow of blood, lymph & milk, and teach how to deal with hyper-mobility.
Every Thursday at 6:45pm
4.) Try Katy’s online Super Supple Shoulders webinar for an in depth shoulder workout and education. This class will help you learn to deal with hyper mobility and relieve tension.
5.) Try these Alignment Snacks (shorter 20 minute classes): Everybody Needs a Little Shoulder Bolster, Rhomboid Madness, Can’t Get Enough of Shoulders & A Real Pain in the Neck. Get Alignment Snacks HERE.
4 thoughts on “3 Things You Need to Know About Your Shoulder Tension”
Great post. How should elbow pits be when doing such things as a push up or plank?
Thanks! You would want the same elbow pit position for a plank or a tricep push-up. The arm position is different than a traditional push-up where the elbows point out to the side.