Your Shoulder

Your Shoulder: More Than You Think

Many people have shoulder pain with overhead activities like throwing, swimming, tennis, etc. These activities can cause the shoulder to ache. Your shoulder is a very complex joint and is more than just where the arm meets the body. The shoulder is connected to the body via the shoulder blade. This newsletter will explain the shoulder blade’s involvement in the shoulder’s ability to move in a healthy range of motion.

This will also help you understand why we must train the muscles that surround the shoulder blade.


Where the arm bone meets the body is the glenohumoral joint (GH), which is made up of the arm bone and the shoulder blade.

The shoulder blade is connected to the body by the scapular thoracic joint.

Unlike other joints in the body the scapular thoracic joint has no true ligaments connecting it to your thorax.

This means the muscles that surround and act on the scapula control what happens at the glenohumoral joint. If some of the muscles that surround the scapular thoracic joint are working while other muscles are not, pain can occur at the glenohumoral joint. For optimal motion of the shoulder, the scapula must move 1degree for every 2 degrees the arm moves, beyond 30 degrees away from the body.

Prevention & Treatment

The shoulder blade must move properly in order to have safe movement at the glenohumoral joint.

Many rotator cuff tears and tendonitis could be avoided if the scapular thoracic rhythm is addressed.

If the scapula is not moving in concert with the GH joint, then impingement of the rotator cuff, elongation of the capsule, or possible labral injury can result, depending on what muscles around the scapular are weak.

Observing the quality of the motion during all exercises is important. Watch the scapula move through slower movements, or you can video activity of the scapula to better analyze the movement. View videos of activity using slow motion to highlight movement deficiencies exhibited by the muscles surrounding the scapular thoracic joint.

Try shrugging your shoulders, then drop them down. Now, really emphasize this downward motion, to cue the body to push the shoulder blades down. Try pushing your shoulder blades out (both of them) then try pulling them in to a pinch, as if you were trying to hold a pencil in between them. If you can do this then you can understand how to move your scapular thoracic joint. This is a start to training the proper movement of the joint. Other movements at the scapular thoracic joint, such as rotation and angle, are movement patterns that are very difficult to see, but the joint must be able to move through them.

In order to achieve a desired sport movement, many joints in the body must move in concert.

Proper strength range of motion and mechanics are important in all joints.

The shoulder is designed for such a great range that it becomes more apt to be injured, especially in the over head athletes.

Having your coach and your athletic trainer monitor your mechanics is a good strategy to reduce your likelihood of injury.

Cross training and strength training in the off season can also be very beneficial.

The off season is the best time to make the greatest changes in the body.

Identified imbalances can be addressed and proper rest to overused muscles can be taken advantage of.

Strength Tip of the Month

While bench pressing be sure to bring your shoulder blades together as you lower the weight