Have you ever heard your therapist recite the words “Proximal Stability for Distal Mobility”? This is often a common theme, which makes reference to the idea that in order for us to be efficient athletic machines we need to have a stable core first.
Essentially, the muscles closer to the spine need to be on first before we use the ones farther away. However, what many fail to realize is that our core is not just those six pack abs we all long for, but rather involves the muscles we need to activate in a timely fashion to transfer force form our axial skeleton (head, neck and trunk) to what is known as our appendicular skeleton (arms, legs, etc.).
Despite being a more common idea in the world of physical training, many people do not incorporate much stability work in their training and are often plagued with nagging injuries of the more mobile joints of the body as a result.
One of the more common areas to suffer from a loss of proximal stability is the shoulder joint. Now, many of you may know that the shoulder joint never works in isolation to create movements of the arm. In fact there are many muscles of the shoulder, scapula and thoracic spine that act synergistically to create these gross motor movements. Unfortunately, many people do not have the ability to stabilize their scapula, commonly referred to as the shoulder blade. This lack of motor control results in a huge break in the kinetic chain, as having a strong, stable and well moving scapula is essential for almost any activity; especially sports involving the upper limb.
This is of particular importance because well, uhhh, its Shoulder season! A time of year some fondly refer to as “SPRING”…a brief season that has finally rolled around after what seemed like an endless Niagara winter where many of us are finding our ways out of hibernation and enlisting in those summer volleyball or baseball leagues…
…It is no secret that shoulder and neck pain and the associated dysfunction are among some of the more common complaints for overhead athletes and desk jockeys alike. It turns out that the major muscles of scapular stability play a key role here!
Specifically, most overhead athletes are likely to over recruit the muscles of their upper traps, prior to the middle and lower trap during sport. This will result in a timing issue in regards to how we activate the muscles we need to stabilize the scapula. As a result, we lose the ability to activate our lower and mid trapezius and a muscle called the serratus anterior. Similarly, while upper trapezius is over recruited, we see an increase in pec minor and levator scapula activation. This group of dysfunction can lead to a decrease in our ability to keep our scapula in a stable position, often leading to other issues involving the rotator cuff.
The scapula serves as the shoulders base of support, and there are 17 muscles of the body, which have an insertion point somewhere on our scapula. Although each of them has an important function there are a few ‘big dogs’, which a heavy emphasis on motor control should be placed. Remember, proximal stability before distal mobility!
But, here is the kicker, no two dysfunctions are necessarily the same, so how do you know if your shoulder is moving well, or rather, if you have adequate motor control of your scapula? Well, the best way to find out is to visit one of the many qualified professionals at WIN Health Solutions and have your shoulder adequately assessed while chatting about the Game Of Thrones final season…or what ever your guilty pleasure TV/book series might be! For starters, a good indication that you don’t have good shoulder stability is pain during activity…shocking right!?