In part two of this Yoga for Firefighters, Shoulder Edition, we will cover a craze which appears to be sweeping the nation, labrum issues. It seems like everyone has a piece of this particular action, just ask Kevin Love. I cannot count the number of times someone has sidled up to me after a class and said “what have you got for a bad shoulder.” After a little bit of q & a, I usually find out the person has some sort of labrum damage.
In my previous post, cleverly titled Shoulder Edition, Part 1, I covered the shoulder structure. Building on that, we will delve into the details of the glenoid socket and labrum. By the way, the labrum is in the shoulder and hip, if you are thought it was a part exclusive to females, you are going to need some remedial anatomy work, and that’s a whole other post.
The glenoid socket is rimmed with a fibrous tissue called the labrum. Injury to the labrum can happen either through trauma or repetitive action. Common occurrences include falling on an outstretched arm, a sudden pull when trying lift a heavy object or a violent overhead reach. Know anyone who might do this as part of the their job? If a labrum tear is diagnosed, anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed and surgery may be necessary.
Once a labrum tear is healed enough that the person is cleared for activity, yoga can be helpful to regain mobility in the shoulder joint. Certain poses can strengthen and condition the rotator cuff muscles which support the shoulder structure. Finally, by increasing the circulation to the area, the labrum and other connective tissue is conditioned and will hopefully develop more elasticity and tone.
Here are a couple of examples. First, assuming the inflammation has passed and the joint pain has subsided, we need to re-determine the right alignment of the shoulder, to do that try Extended Mountain pose (also called Upward Salute). This may seem like simply reaching your arms in the air, but there is more to it than that.
Stand with your hands by your side, turn your palms up rotating your thumbs back, then sweep the arms up overhead. Once up there, allow your shoulders to sink down away from your ears and slightly back, then notice how your shoulder feels in this proper alignment. You may be surprised how difficult this is to hold properly. Hold for 3-5 long breaths, then lower arms and repeat 2 more times.
Next for flexibility, try Reverse Tabletop (or Upward Plank). This pose will stretch and strengthen the pectoral attachments at the front of the shoulder. I prefer Reverse Tabletop, but many people like Upward Plank. They accomplish the same stretch, choose the one you like.
For Reverse Tabletop, sit on the ground with your hands several inches behind the hips, fingers pointed toward your feet. Place your feet on the floor, at least a foot from your butt. Lift your hips until your torso and thighs are parallel with the floor, adjust your feet as necessary. Press your shoulder blades against your back to lift your chest, allow your head to fall back as far as you can without compressing your neck.
Upward Plank is simply Reverse Tabletop with straight legs, flattening the soles of the feet, reaching toes for the floor. There is more leverage at play in Upward Plank, which can make it more intense. Hold for 3-5 breaths, sit back on the floor, rest, then repeat one more time.
Finally, let’s work on strengthening the back rotator cuff muscles, which are usually the weak sister of that group of muscles. We will do this in a reclined pose called Supine Spinal Twist.
Lie on your back with your knees lifted directly over your hips. Extend the arms out palms facing up, pressing the forearms firmly into the floor, activating the backs of the shoulders. If this is too painful, try the cactus arm version with a 90 degree bend in the arms, pressing elbows firmly on the floor.
Now, allow your knees to drop to one side. Adjust the knees so that BOTH shoulders stay fully anchored on the floor. That means you are going to have to adjust the height of the knees and probably the degree of bend as well. Gently press the upper back into the floor forcing the rear rotator cuff muscles to contract. Hold for about 1 minute on each side.
These are a few more of the many yoga poses that can help with shoulder issues. In the final installment of Yoga for Firefighters, Shoulder Edition, I will put together a short sequence you can do everyday to help relieve shoulder pain and condition the shoulder for better performance.
If you are interested in trying an all-level yoga class, I have an open class which meets on Wednesday evenings at CPW Health Center, contact me for more information. Also, if you would like a live Yoga For Firefighters class, contact Lt. Joe Clark, or the Toledo Firefighters Health Plan and let them know you are interested.
Tara Kestner, RYT 200