Scapula or shoulder blades play a pivotal part in maintaining a proper posture. In turn, movements and stretching of the scapula are crucial for posture correction. No one likes to see a tall healthy person with rounded shoulder or humped back. Yes, if there is a medical issue and it is not fixable than that is a different story. But, a healthy person will not make a good impression (especially the first one) with poor posture.
This is the last article in a series of neck, chest and upper back movements to correct posture. Previous articles talked about chest and neck exercises and stretch. This article will focus on the Scapula or shoulder blade.
There are many muscles that stabilize the scapula or shoulder blade. Some of them are deep, some are very small muscles. Some muscles are hard to get to by a massage therapist or even a physical therapist due to its position. Yet all of the muscles involved in the scapula movement are equally important. Imbalance of these muscles can result in pain on the upper back, poor posture, etc.
Here, I am going to discuss some shoulder blade or scapula movements and stretching. Note that I am saying shoulder blade and not shoulder. I need to write a few articles on shoulder pathologies and exercises in the near future! Few important muscles that I am going to discuss here are, Rhomboids, Teres Minor and Major, Lat Dorsi, Serratus Anterior, supraspinatus infraspinatus, and Trapezius. Uffff… I feel it… You don’t have to worry about knowing them or remembering their names. This is just FYI for those who are interested in knowing the muscles. 🙂 I know there are few, just like me 😉
- Postural correction
- Scapular/ shoulder blade immobility
- Scapular muscle weakness
- Rounded shoulder
- Computer neck
- T 4 syndrome
- Winging of scapula
- Open heart surgery.
- Sternal precautions
- Any chest, rib or shoulder related precaution
The figure below explains the different movements of the scapula. There are six main scapular movements. The elevation is Shoulder shrugging. Depression is bringing shoulder downwards/dropping them.
Retraction is bringing both scapulars together. This is similar to chest expansion or opening exercises. Protraction is bringing both shoulder blades outwards, closing the chest or rounding the chest.
Rotation is lifting both shoulders (above 90 degrees) and bringing both of them down.
You can perform each of these moves to loosen up the scapular muscles. You can perform these movements for 8 to 10 times to increase strength in case of weakness. In the beginning, you want to start with active movements and not add any resistance. Gradually you can perform these movements with some weight (dumbbells) or thera bands.
This needs to be done by a professional or health care provider. I am including this as mobilization is a great way to improve scapular mobility, reduce tightness and reduce pain. As Scapula (shoulder blade) is kind of stuck (glued) on back of rib cage with some muscles, it is crucial to maintaining the proper length of the muscle and so the mobility of this bone. This bone affects your chest mobility, breathing, shoulder movement and range of motion directly or indirectly. And of course, the posture!
I used a fancy name for shoulder full circle movement. This can be done in both directions, clockwise and anticlockwise. These movements help to reduce some stress off of the shoulders, relax the shoulders and therefore reduces the tightness.
Chest stretches :
I talked about chest stretches in my previous article to correct the posture.
These are only shoulder blade exercises. This article is woven very closely with the other two articles in the series. So you may have to go back to those previous articles for other exercises. Stay tuned for my next article on what is a poor posture and how to identify it.