Sunday 19 April 2015

Frozen shoulder and a simple way to help

Do an on line search on frozen shoulder and you'll get opinions from medics and physiotherapists explaining that the condition is the result of a virus, hormones, muscle spasm, and from poor movement patterns.  Remedies range from muscle relaxants and pain killers to playing pull with a low resistance band (really! This is ridiculous how is the patient supposed to know that they are initiating the correct muscle group?)  You will find suggestions that you need to wait it out for 2 years and don't expect a full recovery! I have seem a lot of these in my years and whatever factors contribute, the main one is that the shoulder was designed for a function that we never put it through.

Put simply, we have big muscles, I call them the big pull me push you muscles. Their names don't matter, they are there to do the heavy stuff. We should have programmed them in childhood leaping off the furniture, climbing trees and testing ourselves in play grounds. We also have little muscles for fine motor skills, using tools, preparing food, clothing etc. We programme these doing crafts at school, learning to use a pen and a keyboard.  These muscles work in a team allowing us power and accuracy. The entire animal kingdom works this way; developing relevant motor skills through play.

So big muscles programmed for big jobs,  small muscles for small jobs. But we leave childhood and all the crazy movement that goes with it (when did you last climb a tree?) and do only small jobs therefore the programming for the fine muscles becomes dominant and the brain 'forgets' the big muscle programme then, when a big job comes up it signals the dominant muscles. The little guys do the big jobs, the big guys shrink down and can't play. The team gets messed up. The shoulder gets broken. 

The fix is uncomfortable but easy. Re-programme. Get the the big muscles back on line and into the game. Ideally you should do the thing you did as a child to programme them. But realistically you can make a huge difference in a simple 2 step programme. 

Step 1  lengthen and activate.

   PASSSIVE HANG                                          ACTIVE HANG

Start with hanging. A simple pull up 
bar on your door frame or anything else that is handy will do. Grab the bar and release your body weight. If you can't support yourself don't worry, take as much weight as you need to onto your feet until you achieve full extension and have the strength to hold the position.

Over time you'll be able to just hang there passively and let your body weight open and lengthen all of the short muscles. Work until you can do 30secs then you can progress to an active hang. In the active hang the arms kept straight but you lift your body weight with your shoulders. Play with this action lifting and dropping to activate the shoulder girdle. 1 minute a day is all you'll need to feel a difference.

Step 2    Power up

Dip. The simple tricep dip can be done off any chair or the side of a bed or desk. It opens the chest muscles, activates the shoulder girdle and helps tighten up bingo wings.

Sit on a chair or any useful step and grab it with your a hands as shown. Take your bodyweight forward so that it is distributed between your hands and feet. Bend at the elbow to let your bottom drop towards the floor. The further down you allow yourself to drop, the more difficult it will feel.

Don't worry if you can only manage an inch, it will come with practice. You can take as much weight on your legs as you need to. To progress the exercise you can move your feet further forward as in picture below, right - this puts more weight through the shoulders.

Start at 6 a day then increase the load by taking the feet further away or increasing the depth of the dip rather than add to the duration of your workout.

This alone will make a huge difference. You can,of course do more. At Back in the Game, we climb, swing and stretch in a variety of ways to bring back full functionality. Reprogramming bodies is like pressing the reset button. It's simple. It's natural, and it works!

Rediscover your basic programming at Back In the Game Edinburgh