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Monthly Mobility Exercise: Shoulder

In previous months, I introduced the Monthly Mobility Exercise (Spinal Joints, Hips) as a way to further promote the importance of including mobility training in your physical activities. As we age, we are reminded of the importance of joint health thanks to the various injuries and pains we encounter that involve our joints.  In general, physical treatment (like chiropractic care) and physical exercise are the only methods we really have to ward off joint problems (pain, injury, degeneration).

Traditionally, physical exercise takes the form of resistance training (free weights, body weight, resistance bands, and machines) and endurance training (running, walking, cycling, swimming, etc.).  Flexibility training (stretching) has mostly been recommended as an important add-on to your routine – although various studies over the years have pushed “stretching” into the grey zone of “not really sure it matters” (I don’t believe this anymore, so don’t forget to do your stretches after you work out).  Mobility training is the relatively-speaking ‘new kid on the block’ in the physical training world.  Of course, if you’ve known me for a while, you know I have promoted mobility training for nearly a decade since studying Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)

Mobility training

Mobility training, in a nutshell, is movement patterns designed to preserve and improve joint motion and health.  And, since most aches and pains we develop through life are joint-dysfunction-related problems (think: back and neck pain, hip, and knee arthritis, rotator cuff shoulder injuries, etc.), it makes so much sense to prioritize mobility training.  After all, we’re talking about health.

The Segmental Cat Cow and Neck CARs are the starting blocks for spinal joint mobility care.  Last month’s mobility exercise is a crowd favourite:  Hip CARs.  Similar to the hip, the shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is another ball & socket joint with a huge amount of range of motion available to it.  And, the shoulder is really two joints in one, because the shoulder blade (scapula) also contributes to the big shoulder range of motion.  There is no one joint that is more important than any others but definitely bang for your buck if you train your shoulder well.  Here are a few reasons/motivations to train your shoulder:

  • Shoulder injuries are very common throughout life – both from injury and from gradual degeneration (muscles, tendon, joint tissue degradation over time).  By including shoulder mobility training in your routine, you safeguard yourself against joint stiffness and rotator cuff degeneration.
  • Poor functioning shoulders lead to compensation in its neighboring joints (neck, upper back, elbow).  In fact, I’d argue that poor shoulder strength and mobility is a significant contributor to the development of neck pain.
  • People are worried about future joint replacements (knee and hip especially).  While we’d like to avoid surgeries, it’s nice to know that if things go off the rails, we can replace the hip or knee.  But, shoulder replacements are not nearly as common so don’t rely on a surgical fix in your future.  Train the shoulder!

Controlled Articular Rotations

Shoulder CARs (reminder: CAR = ‘Controlled Articular Rotation’) are broken down into separate exercises – one for the glenohumeral ball & socket shoulder joint and one for the shoulder blade.    This month I will be reviewing, assessing, and refining your shoulder CARs at your next visits to ensure you’re performing them correctly.  A few tips:

  • Keep it relatively pain-free (3 or less on your own pain scale)
  • Aim to perform at least 3 rotations per direction, per day, per shoulder.  Can do more as you build your tissue capacity with practice.
  • Go slow
  • Be mindful of the movement.  This is what trains the neuro-muscular connection.

The shoulder CARs video below showcases both exercises performed bilaterally.  You can choose to perform one arm at a time.

The video below is a more comprehensive exercise video for many things related to the upper body (including the shoulder):




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