Shoulder Joints and Shoulder Pain
The bones and muscles and joints that make up the shoulder girdle are dependent upon the free moving flexibility of each component to allow the shoulder to function at its highest level.
The actual shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is formed by the junction of the upper arm bone (humerus) and the shoulder blade (scapula). The joint is structurally very shallow and unstable thus depending upon the stability provided by the tendons of the four rotator cuff muscles which cross from the shoulder blade to the head or top of the humerus.
The acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) is formed by the junction of the scapula and collar bone (clavicle) and is an area where extreme, forceful movements can cause a separation of the joint (separated shoulder).
The collar bone in turn attaches to the chest at a junction (Sternoclavicular joint) with the breastbone (sternum) held together by very strong ligaments. This joint allows the collar bone to rotate; move back and forth; and move up and down. When your shoulders are rounded forward as in a “caved in chest” posture, these bones and the muscles that attach to them are affected.
The last “joint” in the shoulder girdle is a gliding articulation between the shoulder blade and the ribcage (scapulothoracic joint). If this joint does not move freely we have trouble lifting our arm above shoulder level. This is often referred to as frozen shoulder. Even when all of these joints are healthy and happy, the tension levels in the muscles must be such as to allow for the joints to move freely.
The muscles that move the shoulder joints arise from the shoulder blade, spine (vertebral column), collar bone, neck, skull, and ribcage. When these muscles become tight, glued or stuck we have difficulty moving our shoulder as freely as nature intended. Conditions such as frozen shoulder, and rotator cuff pain may result from stresses placed on the structure of the shoulder joint. When we sleep at night we often put all of our upper body weight on the shoulder joint for several hours. We also have a tendency to hang heavy objects such as purses, gym bags, backpacks and the like from our shoulder on a daily basis. This is where the gluing of muscles can come from.
The emotional shoulder
On an emotional level the shoulders can be thought of as the should-ers. Some of us seem to carry the weight of the world on our should-ers or have regrets over what we should have done in the past. In our massage practice we have used essential oils to assist in accessing the emotional level of shoulder pain and postural patterns. One of my favorite oil blends to use is called “Release”, a blend marketed by Young LIving. I add a few drops to the vegetable based massage oil for larger areas or use it undiluted as well. There are a number of other oils and oil blends that may have effects on an emotional level. It is important to honor the emotional component to any “physical” pain one may be experiencing.
There are many myofascial trigger points that refer into the shoulder area. All of the rotator cuff muscles contribute to symptoms in the joint. You can release muscular tension in your own shoulder through the use of a tennis ball. Simply lay on a tennis ball positioned on the floor under your shoulder blade and roll around on the ball until you find tight or sensitive areas. Allow your body weight to sink into the ball.
The massage demonstrated in our instructional videos are designed to loosen up the muscles and alleviate the pain referred to other areas of the body by trigger points in the muscles.
The Spiral Synergy approach for the shoulder allows for gentle release postioning to let the body restore balance and let go of pain. In the process many times the emotional components are accessed and addressed at the same time. There are several key tender areas that are palpated to find out where tension is being stored. Through positioning of the shoulder joint, spine and neck the tender area is softened and circulation restored to a more balanced state. An instructional video working with the shoulder is available here.