Dec 10

The Shoulder Blade: An Important part of the Body that is Easily Overlooked

One of the most important parts our bodies as humans are our arms.  We use our arms for tons of stuff throughout the day.  Our arms function to cook, brush our teeth, bring a coffee cup up to our lips and even to type on a key board (like I am doing right now).  Now, I want you to visualize what your day would be like without the use of one or both of your arms.  Use your imagination; it would not be a pleasant experience.  For those of you who have had some sort of shoulder, elbow or wrist injury, you can relate how this is a drag.  Personally, I suffered from an upper extremity injury that changed my outlook on the anatomy of the upper extremities and how important it is to maintain the well being of this region.  As you will read in this article, a vast majority of the movements that make us function successfully as human beings stem from the shoulder joint, which connects the humerus (your upper arm) to the star of this article, the shoulder blade.

The shoulder blade is known as the scapula, a free floating bone that hovers over the posterior portion of the ribcage.  This bone is unique in that it has very little “bone-to-bone” attachments.  By very little, I mean not the strongest of attachments from the ligaments that attach bones to each other and the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones.  However, the shoulder blade is also unique in that it has many attachments from muscles that connect the shoulder blade to other bones surrounding it.  In particular, the clavicle, humerus, ribs and spine.  With this being said, training the muscular attachment of the shoulder blade will benefit the structural integrity of the surrounding joints and bones.

Another noteworthy attachment of the shoulder blade is its significance to the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff region is a troublesome spot for a lot of people.  It is a joint that is not necessarily designed to endure the wear and tear that humans put on it.  For example, there are many cases of having rotator cuff complications from performing excessive amount of the bench press exercise.   In addition, when looking at overhand throwing sports, it is very common to find rotator cuff issues in this activity as well.  Rotator cuff injuries can occur in the everyday worker population as well, such as painters rolling a paint roller over head to paint a ceiling or a bartender shaking 100 cocktails a night in their cocktail shaker.

When looking at these activities and how they connect to the injuries the rotator cuff, 9 times out of 10 its from overuse of a certain activity.  So what do these individuals do that perform these activities to relieve the rotator cuff symptoms?  Well, the easy answer would be to say, “Stop doing that activity.” If you go to a doctor, you might just be instructed to stop playing sports, exercising, and at times they will even tell you to stop working your job. So that means stop performing an exercise you like, stop pitching and playing the sport you love… and of course, stop working.

Just don’t work.

Ya, sure.

That’s not the type of people we are.  We enjoy exercising and the benefits it brings us.  We enjoy playing ball.  And… we need to work to put food on the table and make a living.

What can we do stop some of these shoulder issues from occurring?  The correct answer is to train the muscles of… you guessed it… the SHOULDER BLADE!  While there are many attachments of the shoulder blade to other muscles, some of the most important are the trapezius, supraspinatus, deltoids, subscapularis and pectoralis minor.  While those words may seem like a foreign language to some, here is a brief description of where the muscles attach on the shoulder blade and where they cross to the humerus:

Trapezius:  A large rhombus shaped muscle that attaches on the vertebrae of the thoracic spine, clavicle and different parts of the shoulder blade.

Supraspinatus:  Your “shrugging muscle” that attached from top of your shoulder blade to the your humerus just outside the border of your clavicle.

Deltoid:  Attaches from the back or your humerus to the posterior portion of the scapula.  It’s function is to lift the arm laterally from the body.

Infraspinatus:  The muscle that is literally smack dab in the middle of the shoulder blade and attaches to the top of humerus.  It serves as a strong stabilizing muscle of the arm.

Subscapularis:  A muscle that is not visible to the naked eye.  It originates underneath the actual shoulder blade and attaches to the inside of the humerus.  This muscle is responsible for rotating the humerus internally.  A very easy muscle to neglect by the way…

Pectoralis minor:  This muscle attaches from a bony protrusion of the shoulder blade that pokes through to the anterior portion of the body called the corticoid process.  It attaches from the corocoid process to the anterior portion of ribs 3, 4 and 5.  This muscle is significant because it serves as a great structural support for the shoulder blade.

Teres major and minor:  Two muscles that originate at the outer edge of the shoulder blade and insert onto the anterior and posterior portions of the medial side of the humerus.  These guys are responsible for bringing the arm closer to the body from a later position while your arm is flexed at the elbow.

These muscles are critically important toward bolstering the structural integrity of the various attachments of the humerus to the shoulder.  Training these muscles for coordination, strength and muscular size will significantly benefit the function of everyday life and dramatically decrease the likelihood of injuries occurring to the shoulder region.  You can imagine how important the muscles of the shoulder blade are when looking at how these muscles for a complex but organized matrix and intersect with each other and cross over the top of certain bones, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels and nerves.

Below, you can look at an incredibly easy exercise that will work the majority of the muscles listed above.  Performing this exercise just ONCE a day will dramatically improve the well being and performance of your shoulder blade muscles.  Now get after it!