If you missed this jump back to part 1 of this expert interview series.
Today Dr. Sommers shares with us a few simple exercises that you can do to help strengthen the muscles underneath your shoulder blades.
CRAIG BALLANTYNE: You said something in there that I haven’t heard you mention this to me before. It’s not about the amount of time that you do it. It’s about the number of times that you do it. So I guess that would give us a good segue into what can we do on a regular basis, over the course of the day, for healthy shoulder mobility and rotator cuff area?
MICHAEL SOMMERS: That’s a great question.
CRAIG BALLANTYNE: Thank you.
MICHAEL SOMMERS: More often than not, what I try to do with patients is instead of creating exercises that they do intermittently over the course of the day, as much as I can I try and create an exercise that happens many, many times. Turn their life into that exercise over the course of the day.
So one thing that you can do is to simply not even in an exercise situation – when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, when you’re waiting in the bank, when you’re doing whatever it is you might be doing over the course of your day is just set that scapula to bring it back and then squeeze those shoulder blades together and keep them back and down.
And so what I’ll do is I’ll squeeze the shoulder blades, depress them a little bit, drop them down and you’ll feel a squeeze in between the lower part of your rhomboids, kind of just underneath your shoulder blades.
If you’re doing it right you should feel some pressure there. If you do that repetitively over the course of the day, you develop – and we know this from functional MRIs – you start to develop a stronger synaptic connection, a stronger connection between nerve cells from the motor cortex at the front of your brain down to the fibers in the shoulder blade. And if you can do that safely and quickly, that shoulder blade’s going to become a lot stronger.
So it’s about thinking about proper body function all throughout the day. It doesn’t make any sense just to do it when you exercise. There are simple, easy things to do. You might as well do it over the course of the day. And I think it will help keep you working out stronger and longer.
CRAIG BALLANTYNE: Any stretching in particular that – doing one 30-second stretch isn’t going to fix your posture. What are the stretches that are generally the best to do?
MICHAEL SOMMERS: Thinking about repositioning the shoulder blades, we have to understand the anatomy. And without going into detail, a simplified version of it is simply to think about elongating the muscles in the front which often are the tissues that are – a lot of people out there, let’s face it.
They’re interested in building their biceps and their pecs – a very limited view of working out, but nonetheless very prevalent. And one thing that happens is those tissues both bring the shoulder blade forward. And again, that’s going to create weaker shoulder blades.
So we have to think about elongating the front. So the stretches I will give are often pectoral stretches in the front, bicep sort of keeping the arm long, the sort of classic arm against the wall twisted torso kind of pec stretch.
I find that really helpful.
Also, just bringing the arms back behind your body and kind of putting your hands behind your back, pressing the arms down trying to open the front that way as well. And that also exercises the rhomboids.
If there’s an injury back there into the rhomboids and they’re developing a bit of scar tissue, sometimes what I’ll have people do is hold onto a door handle or something really steady and twist their body against the arm. It’s kind of a difficult one to explain, but what that will do is open up the rhomboid there without really pulling the shoulder blade too far forward. So those sorts of things can be really helpful.
But I think the real meat of it, where the work gets done, is that kind of repetitive setting of the shoulder blade that you’re going to do over the course of the day because it will teach those muscles to fire in a pattern where they’re really going to hold that shoulder blade down.
So while the stretching is somewhat important I think, it’s more important to just recruit those motor patterns over and over and over again. And that’s really where I see a lot of success with patients.
CRAIG BALLANTYNE: That’s awesome.
That’s all for today. Join us in part 3 where we Dr. Sommers will share with us a good treatment methods that you can do on your own.